Don’t be distracted while driving

Dec 17, 2013 3 minute read

As the holidays approach, you’re probably focused on the final details for the upcoming holidays. This more than likely involves navigating busy roads, traffic, and in some parts of Canada, winter driving conditions. Living in a digital age, you may be staying connected during this time through the use of a cellphone, GPS, or other devices. Although these items are helpful, they are a distraction and use of them while driving increases your risk of accident, not to mention the fines if caught using them.

Driving requires your full attention and with a few simple adjustments and planning this holiday season, you can minimize your distractions.

For cell phone use (includes talking on the phone, texting, using the internet):

  • If you need to make a call, pull over. Find a safe area out of traffic to make or receive phone calls.
  • Stuck in a traffic jam? This does not count as being parked, allowing you to use your cellphone.
  • Using the hands free speaker to chat on your phone while driving? Again, this is not safe.  Make arrangements to pull over safely and stop to use your phone if needed.
  • Before you start driving turn off your devices. This eliminates the possibility of distractions from phone calls, text messages, or social media updates.
  • Allow your call to go to voicemail or ask a passenger to make or receive calls.
  • If you plan on driving for an extended period of time, consider recording a voicemail or outgoing message to inform callers you are on the road and will return their call at your earliest convenience. Plan for safe locations to stop, e.g. rest stops or parking lots, to check calls.

For other distractions:

  • Identify and preset your vehicle’s climate control, radio, and music player.
  • Attend to personal grooming before leaving.
  • Plan your route before driving – this includes entering information into a GPS.
  • When hungry or thirsty, take a break or pull over.

For drivers in Alberta

The distracted driving law prohibits:

  • Using hand held cell phones, which includes phone calls, texting, emailing.
  • Using electronic devices such as laptops, video games, ipods, and video entertainment displays.
  • Entering information on a GPS unit while driving.
  • Reading printed material in the vehicle.
  • Writing, sketching, etc.
  • Personal grooming such as combing your hair or putting on make-up.
  • Distraction due to a pet in your vehicle interfering with access to vehicle controls or obstructing driver view.
  • Penalties if caught start from $172.

The distracted driving law allows:

  • Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation.
  • Using a cell phone in hands-free mode – this means the device is not held in the driver’s hand and is activated by voice or a single touch to the device.
  • Using an earphone or earpiece — for hands-free or voice-activated manner.
  • Drinking beverages or eating a snack.
  • Smoking.
  • Talking with passengers in the vehicle.
  • Listening to a portable audio player as long as it is set up before you begin driving.
  • Using a GPS navigation system as long as the system is affixed to the vehicle and programmed before you begin driving, or the system is voice activated.

For more information on Alberta’s distracted driving law click here.

For drivers in Ontario

The distracted driving law prohibits:

  • Using a hand-held wireless device, hand-held communications/ entertainment device to talk, text, type, dial or email.
  • Viewing display screens while driving, such as laptops or DVD players that are not related to driving.
  • Drivers caught using a hand-held device will be issued a $155 ticket.

The distracted driving law allows:

  • Calling 9-1-1 in an emergency situation
  • Using hand-held devices when the driver has safely pulled off the roadway, lawfully parked, and is not impeding traffic.
  • Making a call in a “hands-free” manner. E.g. using a cell phone with an earpiece, headset, or Bluetooth device using voice dialing or plugged into the vehicle’s sound system.
  • A GPS device that is properly secured to the dashboard or windshield.
  • A portable audio player (MP3 player) that has been plugged into the vehicle’s sound system.
  • Hand-held two-way radios for commercial purposes, e.g. mobile and CB radios.
  • Amateur radio operators, who assist emergency responders.
  • The law does not apply to other road users, such as cyclists and pedestrians.

For more information on Ontario’s distracted driving law click here.

Distracted driving is a year round concern, but particularly important during the holiday season as many people try to multi-task while behind the wheel. If you have questions on how distracting driving can affect your insurance, be sure to speak with a BrokerLink broker.

Be responsible and drive safe.