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69% of Albertans think distracted driving is the greatest threat to road safety, yet 27% drive distracted

March 29, 2023
7 mins
woman in car applying makeup

Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’ve likely engaged in distracted driving behaviours. This is especially true if you own a mobile device, or lead a busy life. Though distracted driving has decreased from years prior, there were still 13,898 total convictions in Alberta in 2022.

According to a recent RATESDOTCA survey, when asked what the biggest threat to road safety was, 69% of Albertans named distracted driving as their answer. That's a stark contrast to the 30% of respondents who chose impaired driving for this answer. But despite the acknowledgement, more than a quarter (27%) engage in distracted driving behaviours.

Through the survey, we determined how likely Albertans are to engage in distracting behaviours behind the wheel and whether they think they’re safe. The results serve as a reminder to stay aware of how distracted driving can impact not only everyone’s safety, but your car insurance rate too.

Percentage of Albertans that engage in distracted driving behaviors compared to those that think its safe in 2023.jpeg

While more admit to talking to a passenger, eating and drinking, and reaching for objects, few admit to engaging in other distracted behaviours

When it comes to device-related distracted driving behaviours, drivers in Alberta are at least somewhat likely to engage in the following:

  • 28% of respondents admit to checking text messages
    • 18% of respondents think checking texts is safe
  • 23% admit to using a geo navigation system like Google Maps or Waze
    • 14% think it’s safe
  • 6% admit to sending a text message while driving
    • 4% think it’s safe
  • 5% admit to taking a phone call
    • 7% think it's safe

When it comes to engaging in audio-visual activities while driving, the numbers fall to zero.

  • 0% admit to filming a video, while 4% think it’s safe
  • 0% admit to watching a video, though, again, 4% think it’s safe

Instead, Alberta drivers are most likely to engage in non-device-related behaviours while driving. The top three that drivers are at least somewhat likely to do behind the wheel include:

  • 70% talk to passengers in the car, though 50% think it’s safe
  • 68% eat or drink, though 48% think it’s safe
  • 46% reach for objects, though 24% think it’s safe

While it’s hopeful that no Albertans are likely to take or watch a video while driving, the fact that there are a few who think it’s safe to do so implies that these numbers could tick upwards in the future. And while only two of the nine behaviours (talking to a passenger and eating or drinking) are likely to be committed by the majority of Albertans, they could still potentially put you and those around you in danger. Taking your hands off the wheel and averting your eyes from the road to eat or drink a coffee can shorten your reaction time — just like taking or watching a video can. That makes them both high-risk behaviours.

Top three most common behaviours are least likely to be seen as distracted driving

As we’ve seen so far, Albertans view most of the behaviours listed in the survey as forms of distracted driving. But according to RATESDOTCA’s survey, drivers are most likely to engage in the behaviours that they don’t believe will result in a distracted driving conviction. For example, respondents are least likely to view the following behaviours as forms of distracted driving:

  • Reaching for an object (60%)
  • Talking to a passenger (44%)
  • Eating or drinking (36%)

In comparison, there’s near unanimous agreement that activities involving an electronic device are forms of distracted driving. These include:

  • Sending a text (95%)
  • Watching a video (95%)
  • Taking a video (95%)
  • Phone calls (91%)
  • Using a geo navigation system (82%)
  • Checking messages (73%)

While eating, drinking a beverage, or talking with a passenger may not get you a distracted driving ticket in Alberta the same way being seen at a green light with your phone out would, you can still be charged for engaging in any distracting behaviour that prevents you from driving safely under the Traffic Safety Act. For example, the province warns against having highly emotional conversations with passengers, as elevating emotions while driving can cause unsafe behaviours that may lead to a chargeable moving violation. It also urges drivers to keep their hands on the wheel while driving.

The penalty for distracted driving in Alberta includes a fine of $300 and three demerit points. In addition to using electronic devices, Alberta’s law specifically includes reading, writing, and personal grooming (like flossing) under the distracted driving umbrella — even at a red light.

Keep in mind you can also be charged for distracted driving even if your driving performance hasn’t been impacted. And a distracted driving conviction can have a long-lasting effect on your car insurance rate. According to RATESDOTCA’s Alberta auto insurance quoter, a 35-year-old male driver living in downtown Calgary with a clean driving record could see his annual premium increase from $2,097 to $2,956 after one distracted driving conviction.

Some commit distracted driving behaviours regardless of whether they think they’re safe

Some respondents who admit to engaging in distracted behaviour also are more likely to think it’s safe, while others aren’t. For example:

  • Eating and drinking: Those between the ages of 50 to 65 are most likely to do it, at 25%, They are also most likely to think it’s safe, at 21%.
  • Geo Navigation: Those 50 to 65 are most likely to do it, at 9%, and most likely to think it’s safe, at 5%.
  • Talking to a passenger: Those 50 to 65 are most likely to do it, at 24%, and most likely to think it’s safe, at 18%.
  • Sending a text message: Respondents between ages 35 and 49 are in the top percentage for being most likely to do it, at 3%, and most likely to think it’s safe, at 2%.

When it comes to other behaviours, people who are most likely to commit the following acts do so even though they’re more likely to know they’re unsafe.

  • Check messages: Respondents between the ages of 35 to 49 are most likely to do it, at 21%. However, they’re not the most likely to think it’s safe, at only 6%. Rather, those between 50 to 65 are more likely to think it’s safe, at 7% (they are only 9% likely to do it).
  • Reach for an object: Those 35 to 49 are most likely to admit to reaching, at 16%, but are not most likely to think it’s safe, at 7%. Instead, 50- to 65-year-olds are more likely to think it’s safe, at 11%, and are 15% likely to do it.

What this indicates is that distracted driving behaviours are not necessarily seen as activities that will impact your safety. Instead, they are perceived as hypothetical threats that some may think they can personally get away with.

Distracted driving can have fatal consequences any time, regardless of how careful you think you’re being. Avoiding distraction while driving can ultimately make Alberta roads safer and keep your driving record free of costly mistakes.

Methodology

RATESDOTCA Survey:

*Survey conducted by RATESDOTCA and polled 112 Albertans between March 3 and March 9 that used RATESDOTCA’s auto insurance quoter.

Driver quotes based on:

  • Number of vehicles: 1
  • Number of drivers: 1
  • Age: 35
  • Gender: Male
  • Lives in the T2G 1L7 postal code of Calgary, Alberta
  • Driver licensing dates: G – Jan of 17 yrs ago, G2 – Jan of 18 yrs ago and G1 – Jan of 19 yrs ago.
  • Listed on an insurance policy for 18 yrs
  • With current insurance company for 2 years
  • Collision and comprehensive coverage
  • 3rd party liability at $1,000,000
  • Vehicle: 1 year old Honda Civic LX 4 Dr (financed)
  • Parked: private driveway
  • Drives five kilometres to and from work daily (10,000 kilometres annually)
  • Personal use
  • Winter tires
  • Did not opt for any discounts related to telematics or bundling
Michelle Bates

Editor and Writer

Michelle Bates is an editor and writer in the personal finance space. She has seven years of content writing experience.

She has a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) degree from Queen's University in English Literature and Sociology along with a Publishing - Book, Magazine and Electronic graduate certificate from Centennial College. Michelle specializes in personal finance content, including mortgages, home, auto, and travel insurance, and credit cards. Her work has been covered by notable Canadian news sources like the Financial Post, the Globe and Mail, CTV News, and Narcity.

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