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Is distracted driving really only about cellphones?


Distracted driving in BC infographic

When I heard of the new distracted driving fines increasing, I have to admit, I was pleased. When I am on the road, I see countless people texting or talking on cellphones and I feel a little nervous driving alongside them.

When I think of distracted driving, I think cellphones. I think of that phone call I have been waiting for that happens to come in as I am driving home. I think of the buzz of a text tempting me to just take a peek while the red light seems to go on and on.

Distracted driving is about more than just cellphones

What I didn't really consider is the passing of water bottles to the backseat because my children are acting like they have been days without water as a distraction. I did not consider the radio surfing to find the right song a distraction. These all take my eyes off the road and my mind away from driving, even for a few precious and seemingly harmless seconds. Although the actual law is for handheld electronic devices, when it comes to preventing injury and death, distracted driving is anything that distracts you from driving, period.

Cellphones are the most common distraction for drivers and are thought to be the cause of high numbers of car crashes and fatalities in recent years. In fact, in 2011, distracted driving caused more car crash fatalities in BC than impaired driving. We have good evidence that cellphones and driving do not mix, but what about other distractions? It's curious that I had only framed distracted driving around cellphones. I am sure I am not the only one.

Stay focused and attentive

I am not saying that it is impossible to change the radio station while waiting patiently for the light to change. What I am saying is that maybe we should be looking at everything that distracts us while we navigate a 1500 kg complex machine while moving at speeds up to 120 km/hr with our loved ones beside us. When I first earned my license, I remember feeling humbled in my responsibility to navigate my car in complex scenarios and to keep myself and those around me safe in potentially dangerous situations. With so many years of driving under my belt, I am a confident driver but, dare I say, a bit lacking in remembering my responsibility as a driver to stay focused and attentive.

This summer while I am driving out to the lake, I will enjoy the sunshine and the songs on the radio about summer, but will commit to being more attentive than I have as of late. I will continue to not let a cellphone distract me, and will also plan ahead to ensure that other people or circumstances will not take my focus away from the road.

Join me in making this commitment to not get distracted while driving and keep our loved ones safe this summer!