We’re all a little distracted

Lisa Dumontier

The Ontario Provincial Police are cracking down on distracted drivers. Texting and chatting while driving (unless hands-free) is illegal and can run you a fine of $155 yet the provincial police force is still having a difficult time with enforcement. Estimations suggest that up to 40 per cent of drivers are continuing to use handheld devices while in control of a vehicle and despite the fact that a vast majority of accidents can be tied to this illegal and dangerous practice, it seems that people just aren’t putting two and two together.

It’s bad enough when you see people bumbling all over the sidewalk while trying to walk and text, bumping into pillars and garbage cans, embarrassingly tripping over curbs and sidewalks. Place these people at the helm of a vehicle and you’re literally arming them with a loaded weapon because here’s the thing: texting and talking when driving is a distraction that increases the likelihood of highway fatalities. A little over a month into 2012, eight people have already died in Ontario this year as a result of distraction-related collisions and that number will only move in one direction: up.

According to Manitoba Public Insurance, which polled 800 Manitobans during November and December of 2011 to determine their unsafe driving practices, younger adults are less likely to find the practice of texting and driving dangerous and the single most popular use for the devices while driving is touching base with family and friends. Ontario’s statistics are likely similar which, from my perspective anyway, begs a pretty significant question: what needs to be said that is so important it can’t wait until you reach your destination or doesn’t warrant pulling over?

It especially worries me that younger drivers approach the issue with such indifference. Not to paint all young adults with the same brush but if the 16-22 year olds are the ones most often texting or using their hand-held devices while driving, I have some major concerns. These are our least experienced drivers. That doesn’t mean we don’t have some awesome and fully alert young drivers out there—I’m not saying that at all—but rather that we have a large chunk of new-to-the-road warriors who are over confident in their ability to focus on the task at hand while also texting their buddy about party plans, chatting to their best friend in the passenger seat and passing sunglasses, music options and bubble gum to the four other passengers crammed into the back seat.

Being in control of a vehicle is serious business and the potential to cause damage is so great. Bad weather, questionable road conditions and active wildlife already complicate the task for us Northern Ontario drivers so why make things more difficult? Put down the phone and just drive.

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