Did you know that distracted driving is the number one cause of death on our roads, causing more fatalities than impaired driving or speeding?1 Using a phone while driving is four times more likely to cause a crash than if a driver’s sole focus is on the road.2 Whether you’re teaching a new driver the ropes or trying to break your own bad habits, these tips will help you block out distractions and keep our roads safe.
What counts as distracted driving?
In Ontario, if you are caught using a device with your hands to text, talk on the phone, check maps, choose a playlist, read or type a destination into a GPS, you could get charged with distracted driving, even while at a stoplight or stopped in traffic. The penalties for distracted driving in Ontario include a fine of up to $1,000, a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points, with tougher penalties for repeat offenders.2
While driving, you may only operate devices with handsfree and/or voice activated commands, such as a cellphone with a Bluetooth earpiece or headset, GPS mounted to your dashboard, display screens in vehicles, and portable media players that have been plugged into the vehicle’s audio outlet and set prior to starting your drive.2 However, research has found that voice activated features on phones can actually be more distracting as they are not intuitive and require a person to reference the screen to problem solve, so be careful even when using voice commands.3
Other activities like eating, drinking, grooming, smoking, reading or having a pet on your lap aren’t currently part of the distracted driving law, but if you cause an accident or are driving unsafely as a result of those activities you could be charged with careless or dangerous driving.3 Additionally, although your passengers are allowed to use their devices while you drive, if you as the driver are deemed to be distracted by the passenger in any way, including talking, you could be fined.4
6 Tips to avoid distracted driving
Although we all try to be safe drivers, devices are designed to draw our attention and distract us. Here are a few tips you can try out to help you eliminate distractions behind the wheel.
Input the destination into your GPS prior to starting your drive.
Activate your playlist before driving and have a passenger take control of the audio.
Silence your phone or switch it to flight/airplane mode while driving.
Put your phone in a place that is out of reach, such as your glovebox or the backseat.
Download a call blocking app. These apps block incoming texts and calls while you’re driving and can send out an automated response message for you. If you have an Apple device, you can use the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature that detects when you’re driving and blocks notifications.
If you must make a call, pull over safely to do so.
By following these tips, you can help keep yourself, your family and all Ontarians safe on our roads. Additionally, having a driving record free of driving infractions for several years will get you significantly lower insurance rates.
If you have questions about your current OTIP auto insurance policy call an OTIP broker at 1-800-267-6847. To get a quote for auto insurance, call 1-866-561-5559.