It’s likely that most of us have been driving before and reached for our phone to read a text, or to change the song, or take a picture of the beautiful sunset on the drive home before it disappeared behind the horizon. In an era of constant technological connection and stimulation — it can be easy to slip into bad habits of multi-tasking while driving. Before you reach for that cell phone when you’re behind the wheel, remember what distracted driving is and the consequences it can have (including how it could impact your car insurance costs!)
What is Distracted Driving?
Anytime the driver of a vehicle has their attention focused away from the road, they are distracted driving. Distracted driving reduces awareness and impairs decision-making, which can lead to errors on the road, close calls and even collisions. Unfortunately, distracted driving is now the top risk on Canadian roads, contributing to 8 in 10 police-reported collisions. Even still, nearly 75% of Canadians admit to driving distracted.
What Counts as Distracted Driving?
Alberta’s Traffic Safety Act states that the distracted driving law applies to all vehicles in Alberta and on all roads. The act restricts drivers from doing any of the following, even while stopped at red lights or stop signs:
- Using hand-held cell phones
- Texting or emailing
- Entering information on GPS devices
- Reading printed materials in the vehicle
- Personal grooming (flossing teeth, putting on makeup, etc.)
Along with this list, you can be charged with distracted driving if you are engaging in other activities while driving that impair your ability to drive safely (for example, if your pet was in the front seat and taking your attention away from the road).
What Are the Consequences? Will it Affect My Car Insurance?
It’s important to remember, you can be charged with distracted driving, even if your driving performance does not appear to be affected. The penalty for distracted driving in Alberta is a $287 fine and 3 demerit points.
Beyond the fine and the demerit points, a distracted driving ticket can have serious implications on your car insurance. A fine for distracted driving could cause an increase in your auto insurance premiums and stays on your record for three years. Further, an at-fault collision can affect your auto insurance rates for six or more years, not to mention the repercussions of putting yourself and others in danger in that accident.
Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
According to a 2017 poll by Toronto-based Pollara Strategic Insights, nearly 4 in 5 Canadians want to see a solution that would stop distracted driving. Here are a few tips to help you avoid distracted driving:
- If you are going somewhere new, map out your route before you leave. Also, use the voice navigation feature of your GPS or map app so you can drive without having to look at the map repeatedly.
- Create a playlist of your favourite driving music and press play before you start driving. This way you won’t be distracted by your phone, trying to find the perfect songs to play as you drive.
- Put your phone away! If you don’t need your phone for music or navigation, put it in a bag or in your backseat so you aren’t tempted to use it while driving.
You can also use technology tools that have been designed to deter drivers from using their phones while behind the wheel. In September 2017, Apple debuted a ‘do not disturb while driving’ feature as part of the new iOS operating system. When turned on this feature prevents the phone from receiving incoming messages and calls while the car is in motion.
Similarly, in 2017, a Vancouver mobile app development company, announced a pilot program that will offer a smartphone app designed to prevent distracted driving. Designed for Android and iOS smartphones, eBrake locks any device it is installed on and blocks incoming notifications when it detects vehicle-related motion, the company reported. To unlock this device, a user must complete a Proprietary Unlock Test, something a driver cannot complete while driving.
Now you should know almost everything you need to know about distracted driving. Next time you go to reach for that phone, whether its to change the song, map out your route, send a text or snap a picture — please remember the risks and the consequences that action could have.