Distracted driving remains one of the most prevalent causes of collisions in Ontario and across the country.
Defined as anything that pulls one’s attention away from where it should be — the road — distracted driving goes beyond cell phone use. Things like tuning the audio system, eating a sandwich, paying attention to a child and setting the GPS all have the potential to distract and cause a collision.
“Driver attention is so critically important,” explains Sgt. Kerry Schmidt of the Ontario Provincial Police. But when you get used to a routine, such as driving down the same road at the same hour every day, you can become complacent. And any unexpected change in that routine can challenge your focus and lead to a collision.
There’s also a misperception that we’re experts at multitasking. We’re not, shares Schmidt, who claims that it’s only by tackling one activity at a time that we’re capable of getting things done effectively and safely. In fact, in Ontario, 83 road fatalities in 2017 were attributed to inattentive driving.
Hoping to curb incidents of distracted driving, Ontario has introduced new distracted driving laws, ensuring that unfocused drivers face stiffer penalties.
As of 2019, fines for first-time convictions will rise from $490 to a figure in the range of $1,000 along with three demerit points, and a three-day licence suspension upon first conviction.
But penalties aren’t enough.
“We can’t ticket our way to compliance, we need to change the attitude of what is perceived as appropriate,” says Schmidt. As Ontario’s advocate for road safety, CAA agrees.
“We believe laws, enforcement and public education are part of the solution to reducing distracted driving,” explains Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations.