Nearly half of drivers admit to distracted driving

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / dolgachov

While the vast majority of Ontarians feel distracted driving has gotten worse in the province, nearly half have conceded they are part of the problem.

Figures released by CAA South Central Ontario on Wednesday show 43 per cent of drivers surveyed between January 10 and 14 identified themselves as distracted drivers after hearing the definition of the offence. However, only three per cent actually admitted to holding their cell phones while behind the wheel.

When asked whether they often see other motorists on their phones while driving, 45 per cent of respondents said yes, with 91 per cent believing distracted driving has worsened in the province.

“Distracted driving continues to be a challenge on Ontario’s roads, nearly a decade after the initial legislation banning handheld devices was introduced,” Elliott Silverstein, manager of government relations at CAA, said in a statement. “There continues to be a general lack of understanding by many drivers who don’t realize that distracted driving is more than just holding your phone. It’s anything that diverts your attention away from the road, whether it be your phone, food or the radio.”

Highway drivers, those who commute 90 minutes or more, and drivers aged 25 to 34 are most likely to be distracted, according to the survey.

Distracted drivers most commonly used an emergency, being stopped at a red light, or being stuck in traffic as justification for their actions.

“There is no justification for distracted driving,” said Silverstein. “A moment of distraction can have dangerous, if not fatal consequences. Just because your vehicle isn’t in motion doesn’t mean you can take your eyes off the road.”

The newly released figures come roughly a month and a half after tougher distracted driving laws came into effect in Ontario. As of January 1, drivers busted using their handheld devices face a $1,000 fine, three demerit points, and a three-day licence suspension. If settled out of court the fine for a first offence is lowered to $615. Penalties increase with each distracted driving conviction.

Deaths related to distracted driving have doubled since 2000, according to the Ontario Government, with one person injured in a distracted-driving collision every half hour.