January 12, 2007

Canada’s insurers aim to change distracted driver behaviour

Halifax, Nova Scotia – A poll conducted on behalf of Canada’s home, car and business insurers has found that drivers are concerned about distractions while driving, but are not likely to change their habits. The poll found that while 89 per cent of respondents were concerned about driver distractions such as talking on a cellphone or engaging in tasks behind the wheel, 60 per cent said they would not stop using their cellphones when driving, even when told that cellphone use makes them four times more likely to be involved in a collision.

“Driving while talking on a cellphone or otherwise distracted has become one of the most serious road safety issues in the country today,” says Stanley Griffin, President and CEO of Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC).

The industry has announced the launch of a $4 million multimedia public education campaign, designed to remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road and avoid distractions such as cellphones, PDAs, text messaging, eating, or setting up a DVD player for children in the back seat.

“In an environment where multi-tasking has become the norm, drivers are allowing their attention to wander away from the task that requires their full attention, all too often with deadly results,” says Don Forgeron, Vice-President, Atlantic IBC. “We believe education is the answer. This is not a young driver problem, and it is not a cellphone problem. Canadians need an attitude shift away from the notion that driving is a part-time job.”

IBC also released the results of a study it commissioned to compare the behaviour of novice and experienced drivers while distracted. The study found that experienced drivers were just as susceptible as novice drivers to the distracting effects of talking on a cellphone. “We expected our research would find that the novice drivers on cellphones drove considerably worse than their more experienced counterparts,” says Forgeron. “While the novice drivers did perform poorly both on and off the phone, we were surprised that, in some respects, experienced drivers drove as badly as beginners did while on the phone. In the end, we found that these distractions worsened drivers’ ability to react quickly to hazards, no matter how much driving experience they had.”

The advertising campaign starts January 22 and includes television commercials, and radio and print ads featuring the theme “What are you doing behind the wheel?” The ads will initially run in Ontario and Atlantic Canada for three months. The ads also direct people to BeSmartBeSafe.ca for additional information on driver distractions and other injury-prevention issues.

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