Don’t drive distracted

The Canadian Safety Council has deemed the week of May 16-22, as National Road Safety Week for 2017. The theme this year is Can you see them? By “them” they mean distracted drivers.

The Canadian Safety Council has deemed the week of May 16-22, as National Road Safety Week for 2017. The theme this year is Can you see them? By “them” they mean distracted drivers.

To quote Jack Smith, president of the Canadian Safety Council:

“It’s hard to overstate the importance of distracted driving awareness. This is a serious problem on Canadian roads. We live in a society where people believe it’s important to be in contact at all times, whether it’s with work, family or friends. But the world won’t stop spinning if you let a phone call go to voicemail or take a little longer than usual to answer a text message or an email. Keep your attention squarely where it belongs: on the road.”

Distracted driving is anything that takes your eyes or mind off the road. Eating, drinking, applying makeup, reading, or manually programming GPS devices or music players. Being focused on anything other than the road and driving is considered distracted driving. It’s dangerous to yourself and others.

Taking your eyes off the road for only five seconds while driving 90 km/h, you will have travelled the length of a full football field. Think about what could happen in that distance: kids riding their bikes out into the road, elderly people crossing the road, or maybe even another distracted driver crossing into your lane. Anything can happen.

Distracted driving is a factor in over four million vehicle crashes every year in North America. Distracted driving is responsible for over 25 per cent of all crash fatalities. You may notice the word crash was used here, and not the word accident. “Accident” implies it was unavoidable. But car crashes as a result of distracted driving are 100 per cent avoidable.

The biggest distraction is the use of handheld devices like cellphones. Studies show that while you’re talking on your phone (even a hands-free unit) you visually lose about 50 per cent of what’s going on around you. Think about that. What are you missing?

You are five times more likely to be in a crash if you’re on your phone. And young people are the most vulnerable. Distracted driving is a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe crashes involving teenagers.

The Government of Canada estimates that collision-related health care costs and lost productivity add up to at least $10 billion annually.

The costs of distracted driving are clear. Here are some tips you can start using today to avoid distracted driving:

 Shut your phone off or put it on airplane mode while driving. The airplane mode on your phone should actually be considered travel mode. Ideally you would put your phone on travel mode before starting your vehicle.

 Use the hands-free Bluetooth function on your smart phone but make sure it’s connected before putting your vehicle in gear. Use of hands-free function on your phone is allowed only for people with full driving privileges. It is not permitted by law for new drivers.

 Get comfortable and very familiar with your vehicle’s controls, so that you don’t have to look for them or fumble with them while driving. This is especially true with a new or rental vehicle. Spend some time getting used to everything while parked. This includes the use of a GPS. Manual use of a GPS while driving is dangerous and illegal.

 Secure children safely in their seats before departure. If issues arise, pull over and park before attending to them, just like on an airplane when they advise you to put the mask on yourself before attending to others.

 Ensure pets are safe and secured in your vehicle before driving. The use of pet barriers and safety harnesses are advisable.

 Stay calm while driving and don’t engage in emotionally charged conversations while driving. This includes other passengers or other drivers. Yelling at that idiot driver puts your safety and driving in jeopardy as well. Road rage is a choice. If you see an idiot driving stupidly, why let yourself get worked up and angry so that there are now two idiots not watching the road?

 Have a designated texter who is responsible for calls and texting. This is much like the way we have a designated driver while we’re out drinking. If you’re driving alone, pull over, stop, and put your vehicle in park before reaching for your phone.

 For parents or employers who want to ensure drivers of their vehicles do not engage in distracted driving, there are products out there like Text Buster that can be installed in your vehicle and on the drivers phone that will restrict calls and texts while the vehicle is on.

Now that you’ve been reminded of the rules and severe costs of distracted driving, please make a pledge right now to change your habits and refrain from distracted driving. It may well save your life or the life of someone else.

Catch Driving with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15. If you have any questions or comments you can reach out to Jens Nielsen at, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.