More People Admit to Distracted Driving This Year Than Last

A new survey on distracted driving from Desjardins Group reveals some disturbing statistics about this country’s drivers and their actions behind the wheel.

The online survey done this past March asked 3,050 Canadian respondents about many aspects of distracted driving, including how often people drive distracted themselves, see others distracted at the wheel, what they’re distracted by, and what it would take to make them stop. The survey was done in 2018 as well, providing the opportunity to compare responses and shifting behaviours and attitudes.

The first troubling result is that significantly more people–53%–admit they have driven distracted by their cell phone at least once, up from 38% last year.

When asked what drivers are distracted by, respondents said external environment/surroundings, cellphone-related distraction, and the vehicle’s console screen/infotainment system.

If using the cellphones while driving, 42% say they are looking at GPS, while 37% say they are making calls (not in hands-free mode) or texting.

Alarmingly, when asked what would most likely stop the respondent from driving while distracted, the most popular response was getting into a motor vehicle collision (43%). Increased fines (26%) or having one’s insurance premiums go up (21%) were a much less of a deterrent.

Interestingly, 93% of drivers think that they rarely or never driver distracted, but 84% claim they often or always see others distracted by cell phones.

What does all this tell us? While people know distracted driving is against the law, the details and the consequences are perhaps not clear or severe enough. The question is, what else can be done about it?

In conjunction with the survey, Desjardins sponsored a fact sheet by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation. The data in the fact sheet were drawn from the TIRF’s National Fatality Database, and show that fatal collisions involving distracted driving happen most frequently between 3:00 and 5:59pm, and were highest in the summer. Vehicles with two occupants had the highest number of fatalities. And whereas alcohol-impaired drivers more often kill themselves in crashes, distracted drivers more often kill other road users in crashes.

TIRF concludes that “enforcement activities and education initiatives to combat distracted driving ought to be tailored to the target audience based on these patterns.” Desjardins has more ideas as well. For the past few years, the company has been using an app called Ajusto to reward customers with lower premiums when they curb bad driving habits, like speeding, fast accelation and hard braking. Soon, the insurer will begin factoring distracted driving data into Ajusto scores in Ontario.

Desjardins says all Canadians should speak up when they see friends, family or co-workers making dangeous decisions: “[W]e need to make distracted driving as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving. Stricter penalties and technology help but distracted driving is preventable and changing our behaviors will save lives.”