Distracted driving has become the most serious hazard on the road.
Although distracted driving has been against the law for more than a decade, it seems to be worsening. Cell phone use is a significant distraction, but it’s not the whole story.
The three main types of distractions while driving are visual (looking away from the road), physical (taking your hands off the steering wheel), and cognitive (letting your mind wander from the task of driving). It comes down to the inability to pay attention to the driving task. Losing focus for a few seconds can be like driving with your eyes closed. Factor in the time required to return your focus to driving when you get your mind back on track. Those few seconds are all it takes to make your day go sideways.
Fines for distracted driving start at $368 and add four points to the driver’s record, minor punishment when you consider the possibility of causing a collision that involves serious injuries or fatalities. The Insurance Corporation of BC (ICBC) considers distracted driving as one of the high-risk driving infractions that lead to interventions and prohibitions under BC’s Driver Improvement Program. A driver with two or more violations within 12 months will undergo a review of their driving record and may have their licence suspended for three to 12 months, a significant penalty for a professional driver.
Using an electronic device while driving is the most common, but other activities are also distracting: radio, books on tape, podcasts, daydreaming—anything that can take your focus away from your task. In most jurisdictions, distracted driving charges usually fall under using an electronic device while operating a vehicle. Causing a crash while distracted by other means may fall under a charge of driving without due care or consideration. No one wants any of those charges.
Avoid the temptation. Before you drive, take a moment to clear your cab of anything that could be distracting. Put away loose items and ensure your phone is secured and Bluetooth is enabled. Take a moment to clear your mind of outside thoughts, like what you’ll be doing at your destination, issues at home, or other worries. Training your brain to focus only on driving can be easier said than done when there’s a lot on your mind, but the effort is definitely worth it.
When you set out, focus on your route. Although it may be the same route you drive most days, traffic changes constantly, so it’s important to keep your mind on the driving environment. Set aside time to deal with everyday stresses–planning for it means you will have a clear mind to focus on your responsibilities as a driver. Think of it as putting on your game face.
Remember that distracted driving comes at a cost we can’t afford. It’s important to stay focused.