Driving with Jens: Distracted driving continues to be a serious issue

How often to you witness other drivers on their cell phones or other hand-held devices? How often do you participate in this behaviour?

I regularly see drivers on their phones while driving. I’m always annoyed when the vehicle in front of me fails to go on a green light only to see that the driver is checking their phone. It should be noted that it is still illegal to use a hand-held device while stopped at a light or stop sign.

There are cities around the world where you can get a ticket for walking in a crosswalk while detracted with a hand-held device.

According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada, three out of every four drivers admit to distracted driving.

The biggest distraction is the use of hand-held devices like cellphones. Studies show that while you’re talking on your phone (even hands free) 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 an automotive crash if you’re on your phone. Young people are the most vulnerable. Distracted driving is a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate-to-severe teen crashes.

Statistics on distracted driving in the Yukon are not readily available. However, our neighbor to the south has plenty of statistics. In British Columbia, distracted driving claims more lives than impaired driving. Twenty-seven per cent of fatal crashes in B.C. were due to distraction. On average, 78 people still don’t make it home to their families every year because of distracted and inattentive drivers.

Distracted driving isn’t just caused by hand-held devices, it is the result of anything that takes your eyes and/or mind off the road. Eating, drinking, applying make-up or other personal grooming, reading, or manually programing a GPS or portable music players can all lead to distracted driving. 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, and you will have travelled the length of a full football field – blind. 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 are all possibilities. Anything can happen in the distance.

Most jurisdictions in the country are moving to very large fines and serious loss of driving privileges. This is coming to the Yukon. It’s a good time to wean yourself off these bad habits if you have them.

I feel like a broken record sometimes, but here again are some best practices you can start 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 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. This is just like on an airplane when they advise 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 is advisable.

• Stay calm while driving and don’t engage in emotionally charged conversations. This includes conversations with other passengers or other drivers. Yelling at the other idiot driver puts your safety and driving in jeopardy also. 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. Not unlike how we have a designated driver while we’re out drinking. If you’re driving alone pullover, stop, and put your vehicle in park before reaching for your phone.

You’ve now been reminded again of the rules and severe costs of distracted driving, 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’s loved one.

Catch Driving, with Jens on CHON FM Thursdays at 8:15 a.m. If you have any questions or comments you

can reach out to Jens Nielsen at drivingwithjens@gmail. com, Facebook or Twitter: @drivingwithjens.

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