Ottawa, Ontario – More than one-third of Canadian drivers have admitted using their cell phones while behind the wheel in the last seven days, according to a new poll by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF).

The Road Safety Monitor poll found that 36.3 per cent of Canadians drove while using the phone, up from 20.5 per cent in 2001. One explanation is increased accessibility and affordability of cell phones and the popularization of hands-free devices and accessories, but any time spend focused on non-driving tasks puts drivers and other road users at risk.

“Available research generally estimates that driver distraction is a factor in 20 to 30 per cent of road crashes,” said Robyn Robertson, president and CEO of TIRF. “Self-reported data from our survey showed that over a quarter of all survey respondents had to brake or steer to avoid being in a collision, because they were distracted by something inside or outside their vehicle in the last month. Taking your eyes and attention off the road for even a few seconds can increase crash risk.”

Despite the increase, most drivers admit to using their phones for shorter periods of time. Of those who said they talked while driving, 65.2 per cent reported they used it for ten minutes or less in the past week. In 2001, only 57.5 per cent of drivers who talked on the phone used it that little, and almost 30 per cent used it for more than 30 minutes.

TIRF and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) will host the Driven to Distraction conference on March 1, 2012 in Toronto, which will include enforcement, government, industry and community groups.

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