While impaired driving is dangerous, many Canadians don’t seem to realize that distracted driving can be even more deadly.
In recent years, distracted driving fatalities have surpassed those caused by impaired driving in some parts of Canada, according to data from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF). In Ontario alone so far this year, provincial police report that distracted driving has accounted for 44 fatalities while impaired driving has led to 34 deaths.
In addition to the deaths and injuries, the number of collisions related to distracted driving that include other things like eating, applying makeup or fiddling with the radio while behind the wheel — is pushing up the price of auto insurance across the board. Some Canadians say they’ve even been denied comprehensive and collision insurance because of a distracted driving conviction.
Drivers are quick to point the finger at others, though. In a recent survey commissioned by Desjardins Insurance, 93 per cent of participants said they “rarely or never” drive distracted by a cellphone while 84 per cent claimed they “often or always” see others driving distracted by their devices.
Meanwhile, Ontario government data shows that the number of fatal collisions due to distraction has doubled since 2000.
Several provinces have increased fines and penalties. A conviction in Ontario will result in a $615 fine, plus a three-day suspension. Then there’s a $280 fee to reinstate the licence, and an increase in insurance premiums.
Police simply watch for a driver who doesn’t have their head up and eyes forward, looking at the road ahead. As soon as they spot someone looking down, even briefly, they speed up to pull alongside to get photographic evidence for use later in court. Even having the phone in your hand at a stoplight is grounds for a ticket.
A number of Canadian insurance companies are trying to tackle the problem, financing surveys and sponsoring educational strategies. This is important because not just lives get impacted or lost as a result of distracted driving, because insurance works with payouts and costs that get taken from a pool of all drivers paying into the system, a jump in payouts as a result of distracted driving means the premiums for all drivers go up.