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Distracted Driving: Think Twice About Your Habits Behind the Wheel

Whether you realize it or not, you or somebody you know is guilty of distracted driving. It might be the result of a careless texting habit or even something you don’t even realize is a distraction. Regardless if you’re a frequent distracted driver or if you’re conscious about avoiding distractions, just one slip-up is all it takes to lead to serious consequences. 

Our families, friends, neighbors, co-workers; these are all people we needlessly put at risk when we drive distracted. It’s time to acknowledge the seriousness of the risks that we take by doing things we shouldn’t while driving.

Distracted driving can be as deadly as impaired driving and has caused more driving fatalities in some parts of Canada.

Report from  CBC News: The National 

It’s More Than Just Texting While Driving

When you think about distracted driving, the first thing that probably comes to your mind is texting while driving, and for a good reason. Texting is by far the largest cause of distracted driving related accidents. Since texting is a mental, physical, and visual distraction, it is also arguably the most dangerous example. Make it a routine to switch your phone to silent or “do not disturb” (not vibrate!) and place it somewhere out of reach whenever you get behind the wheel.   

Drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident.

Traffic Injury Research Foundation, 2019

Aside from texting, there are a number of other forms of distraction which can also lead to devastating consequences if drivers are not mindful:

  • Eating/drinking
  • Changing a song
  • Glancing at/using a smart watch
  • Talking with someone on the phone (even if hands-free)
  • Applying makeup, fixing hair, etc.
  • Taking photos or recording videos
  • Smoking or vaping
  • Using a GPS or integrated navigation system
  • Having your music/radio too loud
  • Looking for something in your car
  • Loud, distracting passengers
  • Having a pet on your lap

While these types of distractions may not be top of mind, they can just as easily lead to accidents. Anything that causes a driver to take their hands off the wheel, causes them to take their eyes off the road, prevents them from hearing clearly, or takes away from their attention to driving whatsoever poses a risk that is NEVER worth taking.

The Eye-Opening Statistics

The facts tell the entire story. After reading through some of the following statistics and figures, you should want to start taking distracted driving a lot more seriously:

  • On average, when you send or read a text, your eyes are off the road for around 5 seconds. – NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)
  • Checking a text for 5 seconds at 90km/h is like driving the length of a football field while blindfolded. – CAA (Canadian Automobile Association)
  • According to the National Safety Council, a distracted driver, even if looking away from the road for just a few seconds, could fail to see 50% of their driving environment. 
  • About 26% of car crashes involve phone use and/or other distractions. – NSC (National Safety Council)
  • The RCMP have stated that distracted driving is found to be a contributing factor in about 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year.
  • Talking on the phone while driving makes a person as impaired as someone with a blood alcohol content of 0.08. – RCMP 
  • Approximately 80% of collisions involved some sort of distracted driving up to three seconds prior to the event. – Virginia Tech Transportation Institute 

Legal Penalties in Newfoundland and Labrador

Aside from risking lives, when you drive distracted, you risk facing legal penalties which vary between provinces. Although the safety risks of distracted driving should have already convinced you to drive safely already, legal penalties including fines and charges are in place to further deter drivers.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, on June 7, 2018, the Provincial Government amended the Highway Traffic Act in an attempt to improve road safety. Under the act, all forms of distracted driving can be punished  under the offence of “driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for others.” 

If you are caught driving distracted in any way, you could be charged under this offence, receive a fine ranging from $300-$1000, and also receive four demerit points. 

Additionally, if you are convicted of driving without due care and attention or without reasonable consideration for others causing bodily harm or death, you will receive a fine of $2000-$20,000, up to two years imprisonment, or both; license suspension of not more than five years; and six demerit points.

Please, for the safety of your family, friends, community, and yourself, think twice about your habits behind the wheel. It could safe a life.