Many cities and countries around the world are having problems with distracted driving accidents. During 2016, Great Britain recorded 1,445 fatal crashes where one or more people were killed. One study completed in the town of St. Albans found that one in six drivers were engaged in some type of activity that took their focus away from driving.
In the United States, approximately nine people are killed on average each day due to distracted drivers. Another 1,000 people are injured with millions of dollars in property damage. In Toronto, there were about 7,500 distracted driving accidents during 2016. Of those, there were eight fatalities and 2,642 injuries with thousands of dollars in property damage.
In spite of public awareness campaigns, drivers continue to ignore these statistics. People tend to think that bad things only happen to others, so they go ahead and text or talk while driving. This has become such a problem that cities around the world have changed their distracted driving laws, increasing penalties and fines. Ontario is one those areas that have recently increased the penalties and fines for those caught.
What is Considered Distracted Driving?
Many people connect distracted driving with texting while driving. In fact, distracted driving covers any activity that causes the driver to divert their attention away from the roads and traffic. Studies have found that younger drivers are more likely to ignore laws and put everyone on the road at risk. Distracted driving includes:
- Eating while driving
- Changing the radio
- Watching any type of media
- Talking or texting while driving
- Looking at a map
- Any activity that diverts the driver’s attention
Most cities are seeing a big rise in the number of tickets issued for distracted driving each year. Lawmakers feel that these penalties and fines will eventually cause drivers to realize that times have changed. Drivers must give their full attention to the road and avoid losing focus. Lives are at stake.
A Major Factor
One of the major factors that make distracted driving so deadly is speed. A car traveling at 60mph moves at 88 feet per second. Using simple math, we can see that if you turn your attention away from the road for only three seconds, your car will have traveled 264 feet. A football field measures 360 feet so you will have traveled approximately three-fourths the length of a football field, just to put things in perspective. That’s a great distance when you consider that there are autos moving at similar speeds all around you and on both sides of the road. If each driver looked away from their driving for three seconds, there would be dozens of crashes with multiple fatalities.
The truth is that each driver feels that they’re probably the only one on the road who is looking away for a few seconds. Surely with all the other drivers paying attention, there’s no need to worry – they’ll see you and take action in time to avoid an accident. This can be a deadly assumption.
An average vehicle weighs around 3,500 pounds, making it a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands. Though more experienced drivers are less likely to be guilty of distracted driving, the truth is that everyone occasionally feels that a text message or phone call is important enough to take the risk.
This type of thinking has become an epidemic in Ontario, England, America and many other countries. For these reasons, legislatures and lawmakers have been forced to increase the penalties for these crimes.
Changes in Ontario’s Laws
New laws have recently taken effect in Ontario that increases the fines and penalties for failing to give your undivided attention to the road. Fines for a first offense can be as much as $490 with three demerit points on your license. If you decide to fight the ticket and lose, you could pay up to $1,000 in fines. If you’re a new driver with very little driving experience, you could lose your license for 30 days. With each conviction, novice drivers will have their license suspended for longer periods of time, up to 90 days. After that, a novice driver’s license could be revoked completely.
When is it Safe to Use the Phone?
Many drivers have had questions about these new laws. In Ontario, it’s not uncommon to see drivers pull off to the shoulder in order to take an important phone call. But is this legal? Or it is dangerous as well? Each city has its own unique laws when it comes to these types of issues. In Ontario, the law states that a driver may pull off the road to a safe location and take a phone call.
In some cases, moving to the shoulder of the road is not deemed safe. There may be workers there making road repairs. The shoulder of the road often has gravel, which can fly up and crack a windshield. Since each case is a bit different, it’s up to the driver to ensure that they are pulling off and re-entering the highway in a safe fashion. If a traffic officer feels that a driver has not pulled off the road in a safe manner, the driver may receive a traffic citation for this. At the end of the day, the traffic officer’s job is to make sure that all drivers are protected. Everyone wants to get home safely to their family each day and it simply is not worth it to put anyone in danger over a text message or phone call.
Tips for Avoiding Fines
We all want to get to our destination safely so what is the standard these days for using a phone while driving? According to the new laws in Ontario, drivers can use hands-free devices (Bluetooth) to talk on the phone while driving. However, you cannot pause to dial a number or answer a call unless you can do so using voice commands.
Most experts recommend turning your phone off while driving. That way, you will not be tempted to answer a call or text message. If you are leaving on a long trip, then email all your friends and tell them that you will be driving and will not be able to return calls until you stop for service or food.
Safe Driving Tips
Always be mindful if on the road with cyclists, emergency vehicles or buses. Pay special attention to the road, your driving and other drivers. Remember that although you may not be breaking the law, there are others on the road who are. There may be a teenager who wants to talk to his girlfriend while driving to school. These drivers present a special danger due to their limited experience behind the wheel.
There may be drivers who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. This condition has been shown to slow a driver’s reflexes. Sometimes drivers are worried about being late, so they try to speed, take shortcuts or make erratic movements. When you put all these different drivers on the road at the same time, it can be dangerous. It’s a good idea to bear these things in mind before getting behind the wheel.