Canadian Road Behaviour Has to Change
This should be a real concern for Canadians on the road. Distracted driving is really costing lives and lots of dollars.
A recent poll has some disturbing trends that are red flags across the nation. In my own region, the Region of Waterloo, the “Silicon North”, the home of Blackberry, Kik, NetSuite, and many others, you would think people would be more aware of their distracted driving and the risks involved.
The study shows just how risky distracted driving is, and focuses a great deal on the aspect of social media and messaging and texting. Here the study shows clearly the dangers of “answering that message”:
“Telus conducted a study on distracted driving, and communications specialist Donna Ramirez says there is still a long way to go in educating Canadians about the dangers. “The other thing we found was that 50% of Canadians feel this sense of obligation to address a call, a message while they’re driving. It’s almost these social pressures that are kind of driving us to behave this way even-though we know it’s wrong, and we just have to make it stop.”
“We as Canadians also need to take a good hard look at our habits and figure out what we can do to curb them. And whether it’s turn your phone on silent, pull over to the side of the road if you have to take an important call.” Ramirez says the study also found that although 70% of passengers felt uncomfortable riding with a distracted driver, 25% of them would not voice their concerns.”
I believe this is more than just “answering the call”. It is a habit formed out of having everything we want when we want and of our “addiction to connection”.
Think about the evolution of Canadian society the last several decades. If we even go back over four (4) decades, what we would term “a generation”, we would see subtle and accepted changes that have created the state we are in.
Back in the 1970’s we began to see the driver through approach to “fast food”, and that moved to “fast banking” by the 1980’s. You no longer had to go in for your food order or to do your banking. The advent of the banking card changed everything. Think about your day even now, and how much you rely on your banking card, never mind your credit card. It revolutionized shopping and it changed how you behave during the day, and that includes your driving habits.
The evolution went to the Tim Horton’s drive through, where you could just go through, get your coffee and pastry or the MacDonald’s for your breakfast and zip on out on your drive to work. You still see that today, people driving, eating and drinking, all the while, and listening to the radio or tunes. Add a car load of people and all the chatter, and all the distraction involved, and you get the picture.
The evolution became a revolution when in the mid 2000’s the “smart phone” came on the scene. The Blackberry when it went mainstream, changed everything. When Android and iOS came on the scene after, the war for the mainstream population, just added to the mess. Now not only fast food, coffee, and talk radio, on the drive, but you have your social media addiction, or texting from friends and associates, to all confuse your drive to your destination.
The rise of distracted driving has skyrocketed as more and more people are injured and killed by a driver that was just too busy to do what their main activity and focus required to do behind the wheel, and that to focus on driving. Something has to change.
In my region, the addition of roundabouts instead of traffic lights have hightened the risk of driving and of walking. I have been at roundabouts here in Waterloo on my way to work to take the public transit with the Grand River Transit (GRT), and both the design of the roundabouts and the driving habits of drivers, have now put your average pedestrian at risk.
The same day the roundabout opened at St. Mary’s highschool in Kitchener in 2011, a student was struck by a public transit bus. The driver was later cleared of wrongdoing, although there were clearly problems with how the Region has implemented and used roundabouts, ranging from the pedestrian crossing being too close to the roundabout to the lack of proper training and conduct by drivers that use the roundabout, from cutting of drivers who are in their lane, and speeding, causing the driver to be cut off and collide wit the roundabout or another drive, to accelerating through, or slowing down to a degree where the driver is a risk to other drivers, and pedestrian. People just do not know how to use the roundabouts. Now add to that those people using the roundabouts, who are drinking their coffee, texting or talking on the phone, or arguing or talking to a passenger, and you get a comprehensive distracted driving environment.
I myself have been “brushed” by a car and a truck, that did not pay attention to me being on the cross walk at the roundabout crossing at the Boston Pizza location at the Boardwalk in Waterloo. Twice, not once, and each time the driver realized as the brushed me, slowed down, looked back, and when they realized I was still alive and breathing, they sped away. They did not even stop to actually find out how I was. This is the kind of distracted driving that is going to get someone killed.
Increased Financial & Driving Record Penalties
Each provincial jurisdiction in Canada has implemented and is increasing the penalties for the increased risks of injury and death from distracted driving.
In motor vehicle incidents, 80% of collisions and 65% of near crashes have some form of driver distraction as a factor in the incident. Distracted drivers are 3 times more likely to be in a crash than those drivers who are attentive to driving. The risk of driver distraction is a factor in about 4 million motor vehicle incidents in North America. Children are 4 times more distracting than adults as passengers and infants are 8 times more distracting than adults. The economic loss caused by traffic collisions are huge. The statistics bear this out. It is a 10 billion dollar expense in Canada, 1% of our GDP.
It is time for change. A change in attitude of the drivers driving. A change in attitude about proper use of technology. A change in mindset, that deaths caused by improper use of motor vehicles will lead to a lifetime ban of the privilege of driving.
Time for Zero Tolerance
Why should murder or manslaughter with a weapon be treated any different than a vehicle in the hands of a willfully distracted driver? It is time to treat irresponsible drivers like felons who murder or kill others. It is time for zero tolerance. Too many people dying. Too much cost economically, emotionally, spiritually, to the damage done by selfish irresponsible drivers.
I am personally very thankful for the changes and increases of the penalties for distracted driving in Ontario.
Ontario PENALTIES for Distracted Drivers: http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/safety/distracted-driving.shtml
Distracted Driving Laws: http://distracteddriving.caa.ca/education/
Increased Penalties in Ontario: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/distracted-driving-penalties-increase-under-new-ontario-law-1.3096785