Ever grabbed a map to look for directions with one hand on the wheel? Seems harmless enough right? But it only takes a few seconds with your eyes off the road to cause an accident.
If you have done any of these things (and who hasn’t?), you are guilty of distracted driving – a fineable offence in all of Canada with the exception of Nunavut.
What is distracted driving?
The RCMP defines distracted driving as a form of impaired driving that negatively affects a driver’s ability to make good judgments. In 80% of accidents, a driver took his or her eyes off the road for at least three seconds prior to the collision. Drivers who focus on something other than the road experience a slower or even non-existent reaction time to dangers.
The need for a new law – the Distracted Driving Law
The main culprit behind distracted driving is advanced technology. New devices enable people to stay connected to their family, friends and co-workers no matter where they are, even when they’re on the road. The ease of communication and the desire to stay in touch often supersedes common sense.
What’s more, many people see time in a vehicle as “free time to do other things” instead of focusing on driving. A vehicle is not a moving office, mobile home, or workstation on wheels. It can actually be a destructive machine if the driver is not paying attention.
In 2003, Newfoundland and Labrador first established the new Distracted Driving Law that makes it an offence to drive while being distracted. The law came into effect in Quebec in 2008 and a year later in Ontario. British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Prince Edward Island followed suit in 2010, and Alberta, New Brunswick, and Yukon in 2011. Nova Scotia just adopted the law in 2015.
Safe driving is a tremendous responsibility, and the Distracted Driving Law reflects the accountability drivers must face in order to have the privilege to drive.
Actions that Consitute Distracted Driving:
Typing an address in the GPS, holding your phone to check directions, and reading while driving are illegal actions.
- You cannot text or email while driving, no matter how tempting it is. Keep your phone out of reach if you have to.
- You cannot make a voice call while holding your phone. Your phone must be hands-free and can be activated by voice or a single touch to the screen if you have to make a call.
- MP3 players cannot be used unless they are already hooked up to the vehicle.
- You cannot read or write while driving a vehicle.
- Using a screen, such as on a laptop, tablet or video game is prohibited.
- In Alberta, it is illegal to groom yourself in the car. Drivers caught applying makeup, shaving, or flossing will get a ticket.
Actions that Are Not Considered Distracted Driving:
You can glance at your GPS that is mounted on your dashboard, listen to music, talk with passengers, have a smoke break, and have a sip of coffee or a bite of a snack while driving. In an emergency situation, you are allowed to call 911 with a handheld device.
Penalties for Distracted Driving:
The penalties for distracted driving include as many as four demerit points in most provinces and fines, which range between $100 and $280 for the first offence, and up to $575 for multiple offences – depending on the province.
The fines are nothing compared to what distracted Driving could cost you. Engaging in any activity that diverts your attention from the road in front of you is dangerous. Operating a vehicle requires all your attention. Your life and the lives of others are in your hands. When in doubt, stay alert and keep your eyes on the road.