Many things can distract drivers behind the wheel – smartphones, other passengers, eating while driving or in-car touch screens– but as the latest Desjardins survey released today indicates, these obvious dangers, especially related to personal smartphone use, are still not clearly being recognized by many Canadian drivers.
Canadians know distracted driving is a big risk factor on the road. While 8 in 10 respondents (79%) say they regularly see other drivers using a smartphone behind the wheel, only 38 per cent admit to having driven distracted at least once. A further 21% admitted to using their phone while driving within the past year.
Smartphone-related distracted driving is more pronounced with younger drivers. Eleven per cent of drivers aged 16-24 admit to driving while using their smartphone on a regular basis, twice the national average (5%).
When asked what drivers use their smartphone for while driving, one-third point to GPS apps as the primary reason. Here too, however, younger drivers are more likely to reach for the phone, with 45% of drivers aged 16-24 using GPS apps compared to only 22% of the 55-74 age group. Non-smartphone distractions include: the external environment (51%), focusing on passengers or children in the vehicle (35%), changing settings on the vehicle’s entertainment system (35%) and eating or drinking (31%).
Overall, Canadians ranked distracted driving as the second largest risk factor when they take to the road, behind alcohol-impaired driving. So, what will change distracted driver behaviour?
The survey found that the biggest deterrent was consequences related to getting caught using a smartphone behind the wheel. Fifty-five per cent are most concerned about fines and the potential for higher insurance rates. While 37 per cent of drivers stated that getting into a motor-vehicle collision would make them more likely to stop driving distracted.
While drivers fear the financial consequences of distracted driving, a strong majority (68%) say that current laws are not effective enough in deterring distracted driving.
“Canadians know that distracted driving is a risk factor on the road. But we need to send the message that it’s an extremely dangerous behaviour that puts you, your passengers and every road user at risk” said Denis Dubois, President and Chief Operating Officer of Desjardins General Insurance Group. “It’s why we launched this campaign to generate awareness and educate drivers to stop this dangerous activity. It’s also why we work closely with road safety partners like the Traffic Injury Research Foundation and Parachute to push this issue forward. Because one injury or fatality on our roads is one too many.”
“We know that changing driver behaviour is a key component of Vision Zero, the road safety movement with the goal of eliminating serious injuries and deaths from motor vehicle collisions,” said Steve Podborski, President and CEO of Parachute, Canada’s national charity dedicated to injury prevention. “These deaths are not the result of ‘accidents’ but due to preventable and predictable events. Through education, changing how we build our cars and roads, and through enforcement, we can create safer travel for all Canadians.”
“Despite continued declines in fatalities due to road crashes in the past decade, deaths involving distracted driving have increased. Distraction was a factor in 1 in 4 fatalities in 2015”, said Robyn Robertson, President & CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation. “Through our partnership with Desjardins, we are able to track data and trends to raise awareness among Canadians”.