Burnaby, British Columbia – A survey by the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) has found that a majority of respondents say the B.C. government should restrict the practice of texting and talking on cell phones.

The BCAA surveyed 7,311 people.

While there is almost unanimous support for prohibiting texting while driving, and for prohibiting texting and cell phone use among new and novice drivers, respondents were divided over whether the government should ban all cell phone use, or just the use of hand-held phones while driving.

The survey found that:

– Almost half (46 per cent) of the respondents said they talk on their phones while driving, at least a few times a week, and of those, 73 per cent hold the phone to their ear, while 27 per cent use a hands-free device.

– 91 per cent of respondents said there should be restrictions on talking on phones while driving. Of those, 60 per cent said any use of cell phones while driving should be banned, while 40 per cent said talking on hand-held phones should be prohibited but hands-free devices should be allowed.

– 97 per cent said texting while driving should be prohibited, and 97 per cent said restrictions should be placed on the use of mobile communications by new and novice drivers. Of those, 82 per cent said new and novice drivers should be prohibited from any use of cell phones, including texting, while 16 per cent said they should be allowed to talk using a hands-free device, and three per cent said they should be restricted only from texting. Of the respondents, six per cent admitted to texting while driving.

“This is one of the largest responses BCAA has ever had to a survey,” said Trace Acres, director of corporate communications and government relations. “It’s obviously an issue about which people have strong views and want to share them.”

Acres said that the issue of hands-free calls will be a challenging question for the government, as it has been proven that cell phone conversations are a distraction, regardless of whether the driver is holding the phone or using a hands-free device. On the other hand, the convenience and benefits offered by a cell phone is something a large number of British Columbians have come to value and expect.

BCAA encourages all British Columbians to share their views with the provincial government as it conducts a public review of the issue. The consultation period is open until August 7, 2009. For more information, visit BC.CA.

Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Quebec currently restrict the use of hand-held phones while driving, but allow the use of a hands-free device. Similar laws have been passed but not yet enacted in Ontario and Manitoba. Prince Edward Island restricts hand-held cell phone use among new and novice drivers. No jurisdiction anywhere in North America has a complete ban on cell phone use and texting while driving.

Connect with Autos.ca