Think about all of the tasks your brain has to process while you are driving- checking blind spots, and mirrors, paying attention to other drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists. Looking for wildlife, dodging potholes, and paying attention to traffic lights and signs. Processing this amount of information is a big challenge for your brain. Just for kicks, let’s add in a cellphone notification, a kid yelling in the back seat, taking a sip of your coffee and your lunch rolling off the passenger seat. All of the above have the potential to overload your brain.
In 2021, 79% of Canadians admitted to being distracted while driving. According to the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), one person is injured every half hour due to a distracted driving collision. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month and the Thunder Bay District Health Unit in partnership with the Community Traffic Awareness Committee is launching a Distracted Driving campaign, Attention in the Bay, reminding drivers to check-in, be mindful and take responsibility for the choices you make while behind the wheel.
Drive with Focus
When driving, distraction is anything that takes your attention away from the road ahead or hands off the steering wheel. There are three categories of distraction: visual, manual and cognitive. Visual happens when the driver’s eyes have left the roadway - like looking at a GPS or a text notification. Manual distraction occurs when a driver’s hands leave the steering wheel - changing the radio station, eating a snack on the go, that kind of thing. Cognitive is when a driver’s mind is no longer on the task at hand - whether letting your mind wander or getting lost in conversation with a passenger.
The legal definition of distracted driving can vary by province and territory, as do penalties for this offence. In Ontario, it is against the law to use a hand-held device while driving. Examples are holding/using your cellphone, or using an entertainment device (DVD player, e-reader, laptop). A first time distracted driving conviction can result in a $615 fine if settled out of court, ranging up to a $1,000 fine if a summons is received or if you challenge the ticket in court and lose. Distracted drivers will receive 3 demerit points and a 3-day licence suspension. For second and third convictions, the $615 fine remains the same; however, drivers will face a $2000-$3000 fine if the penalty is unsuccessfully challenged. Distracted drivers will receive 6 demerit points and upon second conviction, a 7-day licence suspension. By a third conviction, drivers will receive a 30-day licence suspension.
Tips on Preventing Distraction
- Turn off your phone or put it on silent before you start your drive, or store it in the backseat out of reach
- Program your GPS, view the directions or set up Bluetooth before you drive - Avoid eating or drinking while driving
- Set up your music or podcast before you drive
- Give yourself plenty of time to travel
- Avoid personal grooming
- Prepare children and passengers with everything they need prior to departure
- Secure loose objects in the vehicle
- Keep your eyes on the road and two hands on the wheel
Remember to pay ‘Attention in the Bay’! Find out more at tbdhu.com/distracteddriving