Put your phone down – February is ‘Distracted Driving Month’

Research show that driver distractions contribute to 20 to 30% of all collisions

What is it with drivers who just can’t resist the impulse to text while driving? It’s amazing the nearly irresistible pull this little contraption has on so many today – that they can’t get behind the wheel for even the shortest of drives without the occasional glance at their phone.

What could be so very, very important? Admittedly, it’s a tough thing to resist, as many of us have our phones pretty much with us all day long. But February is Distracted Driving Month and if you’re looking at your phone, the police will be looking for you. The theme? ‘Hang up, heads up!’

According to the province, research show that driver distractions contribute to 20 to 30% of all collisions and that distracted drivers are three times more likely to be involved in a collision than attentive drivers. That should be enough for all of us to toss our phones in the back seat the second we get behind the wheel.

Here are the rules – Alberta’s distracted driving law restricts drivers from using hand-held cellphones, texting or e-mailing (even when stopped at a red light), using electronic devices like laptop computers, video games, cameras, video entertainment displays and programming portable audio players (e.g., MP3 players) and entering information on GPS units.

Other no-nos include reading printed materials in the vehicle, writing, printing or sketching or personal grooming.

And it’s not cheap if you are caught and pulled over.

The penalty for distracted driving in Alberta is $287 and three demerit points.

Still, unfortunately, folks don’t seem to be seriously heeding the message.

Between Sept. 1st, 2011, when distracted driving legislation was introduced, and March 31st, 2017, there were 139,579 convictions – and 97% of these convictions were for using a hand-held electronic device while driving.

During 2016-17, male drivers accounted for nearly two-thirds of all convictions. Young male drivers, age 22 to 34 years, have the highest conviction rates.

Driving takes a lot more focus than we may realize, as it’s such an automatic thing. According to Saferoads.com, 96.4% of pedestrian casualty collisions occurred in urban areas and 29.3% occurred during the evening rush-hour (3-7 p.m.) And here’s where the importance of paying attention comes in – during rush hour, drivers must keep track of 3,000 items including pedestrians.

To help ensure that other motorists see you, you need to pay attention too. Here’s where to start.

First off, remove your headphones – when you’re walking near busy roadways, you need to be able to use all your senses to stay safe. And put your phone away – when you’re crossing the street, look at the cars around you and not at your phone. Be prepared in case a driver makes a mistake or wrong turn.

Pedestrians need to be careful, too, of course. Use the sidewalk – when there’s one available, always walk on the sidewalk. If there isn’t one, walk off the road, facing traffic, staying as far away from vehicles as possible.

Ultimately, it’s about taking the operation of a car far more seriously. All it takes is two seconds – or even less – of looking at your phone and the results could be unimaginable and irreversible. Let’s focus squarely on the roads.

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