Distracted driving numbers not falling as motorists fail to learn

Published: August 8, 2018

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Despite knowing all the facts, drivers still operate their vehicles when distracted. Why are distracted driving figures not falling? Motorists know it is dangerous, they know it costs lives, and they know the penalties are harsh. Yet, people still continue to get caught using their phone behind the wheel.

Education campaigns, police clamp downs, and statistics on deaths are simply not working as one in four fatalities on Canada’s roads involve distracted driving. Speaking to the Globe and Mail, Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) said any idea that distracted driving numbers are falling is false.

“It doesn’t seem to be going down,” said Robertson. “Generally, it’s still about 25 per cent of fatals.”

As distracted driving has become more common, statistics have become more reliable. The National Collision Database details crash reports from the 13 provinces and territories. During 2016 there were 310 deaths and 32,213 injuries involving distracted driving. In 2015, the number of fatalities was 311 and injuries were at 31,923.

This mini spread shows both deaths and injuries stayed more or less the same year-on-year. Opening up the data to seven years from 2010 to 2016, there was a high of 346 deaths in 2012 and a low of 273 in 2013. The average number of year-by-year fatalities over the time period was 314.

However, Robertson says the number may be higher because quantifying distraction is not always easy and does not always mean using a phone.

“It’s not like with speeding where you either are or you aren’t,” Robertson said. “There are things like daydreaming where people drive from one place to another and don’t recall how they get there – you can’t really quantify that.”