Canadians remain unconcerned about distracted driving and deny using smartphones

Published: September 20, 2018

Updated: October 18, 2018

Author: Luke Jones



Canadian authorities, lawmakers, and insurance companies remain hugely concerned by distracted driving, and with good reason. It is the leading cause of road-related fatalities in many provinces and drivers simply don’t seem to be getting the message that distracted driving is both dangerous and illegal.

To highlight the point, Desjardins has published results of a new survey showing 8 in 10 (79%) participants say they frequently see other drivers using a smartphone behind the wheel.

Desjardins conducted the study in March 2018, using a poll of 3,020 Canadians. The data presented shows that while nearly 80 percent admit to seeing others drive distracted, only 38 percent admit to using a smartphone while driving at least once. Only 21 percent say they have practiced distracted driving in the last year.

Clearly something is wrong, and the numbers simply don’t add up. Motorists are using mobile devices when driving, but few are admitting to it. Hardly a surprise maybe, but it points to a situation where drivers are still not understanding the risk of the infraction and moreover, are still not treating it as dangerous driving.

There are two kinds of motoring infractions, those the normal law-abiding citizen would not engage in, and those they would. For example, impaired driving is frowned upon and most motorists would never get behind the wheel once drunk. Yes, it happens, and too much, but it is a taboo illegal offence that the majority of drivers avoid.

Distracted driving is not there yet and is currently placed in the same category as speeding. Those drivers who would never engage in impaired driving have probably had no qualms breaking the speed limit regularly. Despite campaigns and tough laws, authorities have never really been able to convince motorists not to put their foot down… most drivers do it to some degree.

That seems to be the situation we are seeing with distracted driving. Instead of being seen as the taboo offence, it is seen as an infraction that is worth doing if you can get away with it.

“Canadians know that distracted driving is a risk factor on the road. But we need to send the message that it’s an extremely dangerous behaviour that puts you, your passengers and every road user at risk,” says Desjardins General Insurance Group president and chief operating officer Denis Dubois. “It’s why we launched this campaign to generate awareness and educate drivers to stop this dangerous activity.”