Aug 14, 2007

Canadians are increasingly concerned about distracted driving, poll shows

Ottawa, Ontario – A new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) shows that Canadians are becoming increasingly concerned about distracted driving. While only 40 per cent of Canadians polled in 2001 considered distracted driving to be a serious problem, the new poll shows the number has risen to almost 70 per cent.

“Canadians used to be much more concerned about drivers using cell phone than they were about other distractions,” says Ward Vanlaar, a research associate for TIRF. “While concern about cell phone use has remained steady over the years, concern about other distractions has dramatically increased.”

TIRF says one reason for the increased concern may be a perceived increase in the amount of distracted driving, with 95.5 per cent now saying they believe there is more distracted driving on our roads. Recent publicity campaigns on distracted driving may also have made them more sensitive to the issue.

“Some drivers eat and drink behind the wheel, others read maps, some play with the car stereo, while others spend too much time admiring the landscape around them,” Vanlaar says. “Distractions like these, both inside and outside the vehicle, divert your attention from driving and elevate your risk of being in a collision.”

Among the various distractions, the poll revealed that external ones, such as events and objects outside the vehicle, posed the biggest threat for drivers. While only 9.5 per cent of those polled had to steer or brake to avoid a collision due to an internal distraction, 20.2 per cent had to do so because of a distraction outside the vehicle.

Drivers aged 16 to 24 were more likely to have steered or braked to avoid a collision due to an internal distraction, rather than external. New drivers who use cell phones were also singled out, with 80 per cent of Canadians polled agreeing that new drivers should be restricted from using cell phones while driving.

The number of Canadians who use their cell phones while driving is increasing, with 37 per cent admitting to using one behind the wheel during the last seven days, compared with 20.5 per cent in 2001. Male drivers and young drivers are more likely to report using a cell phone while driving, but Vanlaar says that there appears to be a trend toward lower usage time, with people making shorter calls when compared with 2001’s poll.

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