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Distractions: The New Driving Impairment

Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. It is a form of impairment because the driver’s judgement has been compromised.

More motor vehicle accidents are occurring as a result of distracted driving than ever before. While a driver is often distracted because they are using a cellphone, there are other sources of distraction that are keeping us from focusing where we should, on the road.

There are three main types of distractions: visual, manual, and cognitive. Visual distractions are things that take your eyes off the road. They could include phones, signage and advertisements, or even passengers in your vehicle. Manual distractions are things that take your hands off the wheel. Again, phones fit into this type of distraction, as does eating, drinking, and using a GPS or radio. The last type of distraction is a cognitive distraction. Cognitive distractions are those that take your mind off the road and could include a whole host of things like talking to someone on the phone or in the vehicle, being under stress, having a pet loose in the vehicle or anything else that could cause your mind to wander.

Distracted driving isn’t the newest fad. It is a real epidemic.

In Ontario, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000. Data based on collisions from 2013 shows that one person is injured in a collision caused by distracted driving every half hour. It also shows that a driver using a phone is four times more likely to crash than a driver who is focusing on the road.

Cell phones and our incessant need to be connected seem to be the primary concern for distracted driving these days. It’s hard to put that phone down, so have a plan in place and use these tips to ease the temptation:

  • Invest in Bluetooth technology that includes voice dialing.

  • Turn off your phone or switch it to silent mode before you get in the car.

  • Put your phone in the glove compartment, in a bag on the back seat or in the trunk where you can’t reach it.

  • Before you leave the house, record an outgoing message that tells callers you’re driving and you’ll get back to them when you’re off the road.

  • Some apps can block incoming calls and texts, or send automatic replies to people trying to call or text you. Check these out!

  • Ask a passenger to take a call or respond to a text for you.

  • If you must respond or have to make a call or send a text, carefully pull over to a safe area.

  • Silence notifications that may tempt you to check your phone.

When you are the driver your only job is to drive. 30 years ago people got in their car and were unreachable, and everything seemed to work out just fine. Being able to talk and text with a phone is a luxury, not a life necessity. Put down the phone, keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel!


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