Canadians are more concerned than ever about texting and driving, according to a recent poll by the Canadian Auto Association (CAA).
Despite law enforcement crackdowns and efforts to educate civilians, more than four in five Canadians believe that texting while driving is a bigger problem today than it was three years ago. According to Jeff Walker, chief strategy officer of CAA National, Canadians have long known texting and driving was an issue.
“We do this every year where we ask Canadians what they feel are the most significant threats to them on the road. We’re about [four years] in a row where texting while driving has come up as the most serious risk in the eyes of the consumer,” Walker said in an interview.
“Individual Canadians were seeing that this was becoming a real-world issue before police and authorities knew how serious it was,” he said.
The survey states that texting and driving is tied with drunk driving as the number one road safety concern among Canadians. Almost the total number of respondents agreed that drivers who text and drive are a threat to their personal safety on the road.
In addition, Canadians now see other distractions, such as email, talking on cell phones and engaging with in-car technology, as distractions on the road.
“I’m a firm believer that consumers reflect the things they observe in the world around them. People know that people they know are doing it,” Walker said.
Studies have shown that drivers are up to 23 times more likely to get into a collision when they text and drive. According to the National Safety Council, 26 per cent of all crashes involve phone use.
Walker highlighted a couple of situations in which people are most likely to give in to the temptation to pick up their phones while behind the wheel.
“High-traffic intersections where there can be long lineups at a left turn lane. What do people do? They pick up their phone,” Walker said. According to statistics from the CAA website, 33 per cent of Canadians admit to texting and driving while stopped at a red light, despite believing the practice is unacceptable.
Walker also warns drivers to watch out for malls, schools, and other places where there are young people, as youth are most likely to text and drive.
Despite public education campaigns and progress within law enforcement, Walker admits that policing texting while driving is a challenge.
“It’s very hard for police to enforce this. People’s hearts are in the right place around this. It’s just the nature of texting and driving is very difficult to enforce,” Walker said. “People recognize it’s a reality, but people also know it’s going to be very difficult to catch someone texting while driving.”
All 10 provinces have some form of distracted driving legislation in place, with the highest fine in the country going up to $888 in British Columbia on the second offence. Manitoba and Prince Edward Island are tied for first in deducting the highest number of demerit points, up to 5, for distracted driving offences.
Findings are based on a CAA poll of 2,003 Canadians carried out in November. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.19%, 19 times out of 20.
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