It’s good that the message about impaired driving is getting through in Canada. Fewer drivers are taking the incredibly foolish chance of driving while impaired.
Unfortunately, they seem to be much less worried about distracted driving. A recent survey found that more than a third of Canadian drivers are using their smartphones behind the wheel. During the first week of December, 36 percent of drivers texted, made non-hands-free calls, read emails, and even shot photos or videos.
There ought to be a law, you say? There is, at least in all the provinces and two out of three territories. Distracted driving is illegal everywhere but Nunavut. But many Canadians seem to think they law doesn’t apply to them.
Worse, only a quarter of passengers speak up when their drivers haul out the smartphone. The rest suffer in silence.
The survey was prepared by TELUS, a Vancouver-based telecommunications company. In response to these dismal findings, TELUS is inviting drivers to join their newly-launched “Thumbs Up. Phones Down.” Campaign:
- Put your phone away every time you get behind the wheel of a car and focus on the road. This part is non-negotiable!
- Take to the Internet (when you’re not driving, of course!) and share you best thumbs up selfie or video using the #ThumbsUpPhonesDown hashtag to help rally your friends, family and followers around the cause.
- See a driver with both hands on the wheel? Give them a thumbs up for resisting the temptation and keeping their phone down and eyes on the road while driving.
As for the passengers who don’t speak up when drivers pull out their smartphones to check a text: what’s with that? Canadians are renowned – at least by Americans – for being polite. But perhaps sitting with a distracted driver is not the time to be polite. A few words to the effect of, “Please put down the phone while you’re driving” would not be out of place.
Distracted driving is a sticky problem that isn’t going away because not enough people take it seriously yet. And while we have treatment programs and ignition interlock devices for drunk driving, we haven’t yet developed technology or behaviour modification strategies for people who can’t resist using their phones.
Until we do, or until that negligent third of Canadians sees the light of day, the roads of Canada will be that much more perilous.