Distracted Driving

What is distracted driving?

Distraction occurs any time you take your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel and your mind off your primary task: driving safely. Any non-driving activity you engage while driving increases your risk of crashing.

You are a distracted driver if you do any of the following things:

Businesswoman eating and holding a drinking cup while driving.
  • Send a text
  • Call someone
  • Eat or drink
  • Adjust a radio, CD player or MP3 player
  • Reach for something that’s fallen on the floor
  • Look at an accident as you drive past
  • Talk to passengers (including your kids in the back seat)
  • Apply makeup
  • Look at maps or read directions
  • Use a navigation system
  • Watch a video

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Get the facts and know the law!

In Ontario, the distracted driving law makes it illegal for drivers to:

Car crash in urban street with black car
  • Talk, text, type, dial or email using cell phones or other hand-held communications/entertainment devices.
  • View laptops, DVD players and display screens unrelated to driving.
  • Hands-free use of these devices is permitted.

There are 3 types of distraction:

  1. Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
  2. Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  3. Cognitive: Taking your mind off driving

In 2015, Halton Regional Police Services laid a total of 4,170 distracted driving charges. That number was down from 5,557 charges laid in 2014.

The majority of the charges were laid in Burlington (51%), with the remaining charges equally distributed in Oakville, Milton and Halton Hills.

Men accounted for 59% of those charged and women 41%. The median age for those charged was 40 years of age for men and 37 years of age for women.

Texting and driving

Driver using mobile phone

Using mobile technology has become part of our culture. We send and receive texts during meetings and meals, while walking, at movies or cultural events and while driving.

Research suggests that people:

  • Conduct much of their social life on their hand-held devices;
  • Believe texting saves them time; and
  • Often text out of boredom.

Although we know that texting and driving is illegal and can have serious negative consequences, it has become a normal part of driving. However texting involves all three types of distraction – manual, visual and cognitive. This makes texting the most dangerous type of distracted driving.

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How can I make a change?

Changing your behaviour

There are a few simple things that you can do to stop texting and driving.

  • Send texts before getting in the car or on the road;
  • Turn your phone off before you turn the ignition on;
  • If you’re a passenger make sure the driver does the same;
  • Appoint a passenger to be the “designated texter” and let them reply to a text message for you; and
  • If you must send or reply to a text while in the car, pull safely off the road and stop your car before texting.

Changing your children’s behaviour

The risks of a fatal accident increase with every teenage passenger in the car. Help them develop a lifetime of good driving habits.

Teenage son listening to father's advice
  • Talk with them
    Driving is a serious responsibility. Discuss what it means to be a safe driver with your teen and set ground rules for when they're behind the wheel. If your teen is on the road, it’s eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. No texting. No phones. No letting your friends distract you.
  • Make a Family Pledge
    Have every member of your family commit to distraction-free driving. Set a positive example for your kids by putting your cell phone in the glove compartment every time you drive. Teach them the importance of distraction-free driving.
  • Do you have small children?
    Teach them right from the start. When you’re behind the wheel, you’re a driver first, not a parent. Park first, then parent - whether that means passing a sippy cup, picking up a toy or refereeing the latest crisis – park first.

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Frequently asked questions

Is distracted driving really a problem?

Distracted driving kills and is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year. The friends, family and neighbours of the thousands of people killed each year in distracted driving crashes will tell you it is a very serious safety problem.

Beautiful young woman applying make-up while driving car.

If it's so dangerous, why do people do it?

Some people still don't know how dangerous distracted driving is. Others know about the risks of texting and talking while driving, but still choose to do so anyway. They make the mistake of thinking the statistics don't apply to them or that they can defy the odds.

Who are the most serious offenders?

Our youngest and most inexperienced drivers are most at risk for distracted driving. However, data suggests the men and women in their late 30’s to early 40’s are those most frequently charged with distracted driving.

Sending or reading one text is pretty quick, unlike a phone conversation - wouldn't that be okay?

No. Texting is the most alarming distraction because it involves manual, visual and cognitive distraction simultaneously. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 80 km/h, that's like driving the length of an entire football field blindfolded. It's extraordinarily dangerous.

Is it safe to use a hands-free device to talk on a cell phone while driving?

Research shows that drivers having a hands-free phone conversation miss the important visual and audio cues that would ordinarily help you avoid a crash. While it may be less distracting than texting and driving, using a hands-free device to talk on the phone is still distracting you from driving.

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Resources and videos

Resources

Videos

In case you still need a reason not to drive distracted, take a look at these powerful videos.

  • Rick Mercer’s Rant about distracted driving
    It’s hard to admit you might be addicted to technology, but there’s an easy solution.
  • Abbotsford Police Distracted Driving Accident Video
    Disturbing 45 second video showing a pedestrian being struck by a distracted driver.
  • Texting and Driving: SD Department of Highway Safety
    30 second video showing how focusing on your phone can have deadly consequences.
  • Txt U L8R
    Full of interesting facts presented in a dynamic, impactful way that especially relates to young drivers.

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