When you get into a car to drive, what do you do? Put your seatbelt on? Check your surroundings? Put your headlights on?
How about: lock your cell phone in the glove box?
As it turns out, making your phone as inaccessible as possible might be key to your safety, and the safety of others. The number of deaths caused by distracted driving has doubled since 2000. In 2013, statistics showed that, on average, one person was injured every half hour due to distracted driving. In addition, The Traffic Injury Research Foundation released a report last month, which indicated that distracted driving fatalities have surpassed impaired driving fatalities in several Canadian jurisdictions. Clearly, distracted driving has become a very serious threat to public safety.
What is distracted driving? The most well-known example is probably texting and driving, but distracted driving actually encompasses a wide range of activities. According to the provincial government, the following activities count as distracted driving, and are, as such, against the law:
When you engage in any of the above activities – even when stopped at a red light – you are a distracted driver. By contrast, you are allowed to turn a hands-free device on and off, and you can use a securely mounted device (such as a phone or GPS), when driving.
The sharp rise in the number of deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving demonstrates just how difficult it is for drivers to ignore distractions – often in the form of a buzzing/ringing/beeping smartphone. That’s why it’s important to remove temptation as much as possible. The Ontario government suggests the following tips to avoid distracted driving and its very serious consequences:
The consequences of succumbing to temptation can be deadly. In addition to the risk of causing serious injury or death, if you are caught distracted driving, you may lose demerit points and be fined anywhere from $490 to $1000. If you are a novice driver, your licence may be suspended, or even cancelled in the case of repeat convictions.
In addition, if you endanger other people because you are distracted while driving, you could be charged with careless driving, which could result in the loss of 6 demerit points, fines of up to $2,000, a jail term of up to six months, and/or a licence suspension of up to two years. If that’s not enough of a deterrence, distracted drivers who cause bodily harm could be charged with dangerous driving and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison – those who cause death could face up to 14 years in prison.
So, rather than relying on willpower – often a scarce resource given the stresses and demands of our day-to-day lives – we should remove the temptation to become distracted altogether. Texts, emails, and our friends’ 140-character rants about politics can wait.
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