Peter Watts: Millennials upset with distracted drivers

A driver texts while at the wheel in this photo illustration of distracted driving on Wednesday, Jan. 25, 2017 in Montreal. Paul Chiasson / The Canadian Press

There’s a new survey out this week measuring the reactions of millennials to the growing problem of distracted driving. The results may surprise you.

While millennials are often thought to be the greatest culprits of such behaviour, the survey found that 59 per cent of respondents ages 18-34 have asked a driver to stop using a mobile device while at the wheel of a vehicle. That’s the highest percentage of any age group.

“It is particularly compelling — and encouraging — to see that the demographic most comfortable with asking a driver to put down a mobile device is Canadian youth,” said Jordan Solway, group general counsel and vice-president of Travelers Canada. “Distracted driving is a deadly habit, and we should all be advocates when it comes to speaking up about its dangers and our safety.”

READ MORE: Licence suspensions, increased fines — New penalties in 2019 if convicted of distracted driving

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Solway is leading a national effort to explore approaches to combatting distracted driving. A symposium entitled “Every Second Matters: A conversation starter on reducing distracted driving risk” drew a large and enthusiastic audience at the University of Calgary last week.

The event generated “lots of good questions and some good ideas,” Solway told me.

“It took a long time to educate drivers not to drink and drive. We’re going to have to make the same kind of effort to reduce the risk of texting and driving,” he said. “Mothers Against Drunk Driving has done some wonderful work in this area over the last 25 years. It’s going to take the same kind of effort to stop distracted drivers. In fact, the MADD acronym could now apply to distracted driving. It’s too much of a factor in too many fatal accidents.”

Research shows that if you are texting or talking on your device while at the wheel, you’re not paying full attention to your driving. Even a hands-free phone is a distraction. When you are at the wheel, you have only one responsibility: the safe operation of your vehicle. Your own life and the lives of others can hang in the balance. Put a value on that, if you like.

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