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Canada's Most Dangerous Problem on the Road? Distracted Driving

Feb. 4, 19
5 mins
A man sits behind the driver's seat of his vehicle on a sunny day

Even the smallest of distractions can have dire consequences on the road. That's why Canadian drivers are now encouraged to be mindful of all activities that take their attention away from the task at hand. That includes texting or using a hand-held device, practices that have increasingly strict penalties in many provinces. It also means anything that removes focus, causing the potential for injury.

Distracted driving-related collisions are not only devastating from a human perspective, but can cause your car insurance rates to skyrocket. Here's a primer on what exactly qualifies as distracted driving, and why it should be avoided.

What is distracted driving?

The RCMP has a broad definition of distracted driving. That's because so many everyday activities can take drivers' attention away from the road. Most people think of texting or talking on the phone, but eating, drinking, reading maps, grooming, smoking, playing loud music, talking to passengers, and driving when tired can all count as distracted driving. Despite all these possibilities, the most common forms are eating and drinking (87%), adjusting an iPod or radio (71%) and looking at or talking to passengers (60%). These are the behaviours Canadian drivers admit to engaging in.

Although texting is not mentioned in this particular survey, its effects are startling. Spending just five seconds reading a text is the same as driving the entire length of a football field blindfolded, assuming a rate of 90 km/h. About 26% of all vehicle accidents have phone use as at least one cause, according to the CAA.

How distracted driving makes roads more dangerous

Decades of impaired driving campaigns have succeeded in getting many drunk drivers off the road. Distracted driving, however, is just as hazardous and many more people do it. Eighty per cent of collisions involve driver inattention just prior to the event. The CBC reported in 2018 that distracted driving-related deaths have increased for five consecutive years in Ontario. That's five years past a 2013 statistic that found someone is injured in a distracted driving-related collision every half hour in the province. Although this number is particularly high given Ontario's high population, it is also a strong indicator that the issue may be a problem across Canada.

Robyn Robertson of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) told the CBC that age is a factor in how a driver approaches the issue of distracted driving. "Young drivers may not recognize the risks posed by distraction because they fail to recognize hazards," she said, while older drivers may want to avoid distraction because of their experience on the road. All age groups, however, have to be mindful of the potential for distraction.

What the consequences are

Given the prevalence of driver distraction, governments have stepped in to deter this behaviour with serious penalties. Every province and territory, except Nunavut, imposes fines or demerit points for distracted driving. The legislation usually focuses on the use of hand-held cellphones. Laws are particularly tough in Ontario, where those who use a hand-held device while driving will face a fine of $1,000 and three-day license suspension when the new law comes into effect in January 2019. The penalties increase with repeat infractions, up to a fine of $3,000 and 30-day suspension for those who have been caught three times engaging in the behaviour.

Distracted driving increases Toronto car insurance rates

It should come as no surprise that, in addition to the hazard to human life on the road, distracted driving can increase insurance rates. With every infraction, ticket, or collision on a driver's history, insurance becomes more expensive. To find the best rates to keep you and your passengers safe on the road, check out car insurance quotes to find options for not only Toronto car insurance, but drivers in all Canadian cities.


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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