Albertans’ thumbs are getting plenty of exercise these days. If you’ve you pulled up to a red light lately and think you’ve noticed the drivers around you staring into their laps as they madly scratch at their phones, you aren’t alone. A 2014 AMA survey probed a little deeper into behaviours like text messaging while driving.
Distracted Driving: By the Numbers
When it comes to staying connected through our phones and tablets, 71% of adults surveyed reported using text messaging or instant messaging apps in their daily lives. In the 18-24 year age group, that number sky-rocketed to more than 97% of respondents regularly sending out LOLs from their hand held devices.
Among those texters, only 32% admitted to texting while they were behind the wheel. Most people said they rarely type out messages while on the move, with only 4% identifying as regularly reading or sending texts while driving.
Get the Message
But based on what we see daily on the drive home from work, it’s hard to ignore the apparent increase in texting and driving. Are we simply a province of law-breaking, finger-tapping outlaws who would rather fine tune their dinner reservations than watch out for hazards on the road? Don’t people know they can face a fine and demerits if they get caught? Or that — if we really start swerving around the road — we might face the more serious charge of ‘driving carelessly’ which carries greater fines and demerits?
Put a Stop to Texting
So we asked people why they text and drive and nearly half (48%) of distracted drivers indicated they did so because they were stopped in traffic, while just 32% claimed to be responding to an urgent message. While some Albertans see a traffic stop as a safe zone for texting, it’s hard to safely share the road with other vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists when you tune out at every red light, train crossing, or traffic jam.
The fact is that conversations — on the phone or in the vehicle — provide a cognitive distraction that takes attention away from driving. And some studies have shown that the extra physical and visual distractions of texting increase the chance of a collision by up to 23 times. Those texting drivers who ‘hide’ their phones in their laps only add to the danger by taking their eyes and their minds off the road.
For Safety’s Sake
So is it time for a tough love approach that cracks down on all those Tommy Texters? Tougher penalties were recently introduced, and some departments have even considered seizing cell phones from distracted drivers. At AMA we’re hoping to see more education, greater awareness, and more consistent enforcement, for everyone’s safety.