CAA is raising awareness about distracted driving among young motorists
The numbers add up to disaster: A quarter of teens admit to replying to a text while driving; 60 percent of drivers age 18 to 24 fess up to changing a song on their phone while driving; and distracted driving is implicated in about one in five fatal car crashes in Canada.
The solution to this problem is surprisingly simple: Put down your devices while driving. That’s the key message CAA’s #UnplugAndDrive campaign wants to drive home with young motorists.
“Distraction is as serious as impaired driving,” says Ian Jack, CAA’s Vice-President of Public Affairs. Common distractions include checking text messages, changing a playlist, entering map coordinates and eating.
Take your eyes off the road for five seconds while driving at 90 km/hr and you’ll blindly travel the length of the turf at IG Field. A lot of unforeseen changes can occur over that distance.
Today’s newest drivers “were pretty much born with phones in their hands,” Jack says. So they find it harder than older drivers to put their devices down. And that puts them at greater risk of being in a collision. But there are simple measures that drivers of any age can take to minimize their distractions and finish each trip safely.
Though law enforcement tends to promote hands-free cellular use, research has shown that a phone chat while barreling down the road is a mental distraction. Your cognitive focus is split between the call and the various tasks a driver needs to focus on. The safest way to have a phone conversation in a car is to pull over.
Younger drivers tend to immediately reply to calls and social media messages from friends. To buffer those “Why isn’t she replying?” jitters, set up your device to notify family and friends that you’re driving, and you’ll respond when you’re safely parked. Most smartphones have a “do not disturb” setting, which can be turned on manually or whenever the phone connects to your vehicle’s Bluetooth.
Eating while driving is also very dangerous. Even if it only takes one hand off the wheel, eating pulls your eyes away from the road when you inevitably drop a French fry or glob of ketchup in your lap.
Finally, if you’re using a map to guide you, enter addresses and set up the GPS before you put the car into gear. You’ll know where you’re going and arrive alive.
CAA’s distracted driving campaign targets young drivers
The campaign features a series of 10-and 15-second animated video clips to show the consequences of taking your focus off the road. Humour helps drive home the message. In one clip, an octopus changes her playlist and rear-ends someone. “It only takes a second to be distracted,” says the tagline as her car slowly fills with octopus ink. “The idea is to get young people talking among themselves,” CAA’s Ian Jack says. Since it launched last October, the campaign has been viewed more than 1.5 million times with 30,000 likes and shares.