As a personal injury lawyer, it’s my job to fight on behalf of those who have been hurt.
That being said, it’s not easy seeing people in pain; or watching a mother break down in my office because she doesn’t know when she’ll return to work or how she’ll provide for her kids.
Many of the life-altering injuries I represent stem from car accidents; that’s why I believe strongly in preventing the distractions that cause them.
While some driving distractions are obvious, like texting on a cell-phone or fussing with the kids, a distraction is anything that takes your attention away from the road—even for one second.
Today I thought I would go through 3 common distractions that cause motor vehicle accidents to ensure you have a safe, accident-free year ahead. It’s also worth mentioning that the laws have changed and a traffic officer now has the right to charge you for every one of these distractions:
Distraction #1) Cell Phone Use
In 2016, smartphones play a vital role in our lives; they’re also one of the most common distractions for drivers. In fact, drivers engaged in text messaging are 23x more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash compared with non-distracted drivers.
Whether you use your phone for calling, texting, seeking directions or searching the web, the result is the same: Your mental focus is being hijacked from where it should be—on the road in front of you.
If you find yourself guilty of using your phone behind the wheel, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- Turn your cellphone on silent
- Completely turn your cellphone off
- Put your cellphone out of reach (in your purse or glove box to avoid the urge to grab it)
- Finish important conversations with others before getting behind the wheel
- Let your friends know you’re about to drive so they’re not texting and seeking a response
- If you need to text or make a call in an emergency situation, pull over and bring your vehicle to a complete stop with the ignition off and 4-ways on
Distraction #2) Eating & Grooming
On several occasions I’ve commuted to work and witnessed the person in the car next to me finishing their morning routine behind the wheel.
I’ve seen it all; from fiddling with a Tim Hortons breakfast sandwich to applying makeup to (seriously) flossing in the mirror.
While I understand the importance of a good breakfast and looking presentable for work, these activities belong in the home, not in the car on your morning commute.
Picture this: You’re running late and have no time to eat. You swing through your favourite drive-thru spot and pick up a breakfast burrito. As you hurryingly unwrap it, you spill ketchup on your suit.
You frantically search through the bag on your passenger seat for a napkin. As you glance down to wipe up the mess, you neglect to notice the 403 traffic is coming to a screeching halt. Gridlock.
You slam on your breaks but it’s too late. You crash into the vehicle ahead of you, injuring a child in the backseat and suffering a concussion yourself.
You have to ask yourself: Was it worth a car crash?
Automobile collisions like this happen all the time because people are a) late for work b) in a rush or c) think it’ll never happen to them; but the harsh reality is it does happen, and it can happen to you.
If you find yourself rushing to finish your morning routine behind the wheel, you need to plan ahead:
- Prep your breakfast the night before to save yourself time in the morning
- Plan your outfit the night before and lay it out so you know exactly what to put on when you wake up
- Set your alarm 30 minutes earlier than usual to give yourself adequate time to eat breakfast and get ready for the day
- Keep a small makeup/hygiene bag at work to touch-up if you didn’t have enough time to finish getting ready at home
Distraction #3) Kids As Passengers
If you’re a parent, you’ve likely encountered the following distractions: “Are we there yet?!” “Mom, I’m hungry!” “Jack hit me!” “I’m going to be sick!” “I need to go to the bathroom!” –and of course, driving with a crying infant in the bank is downright painful.
While these are fairly common distractions with kids, it’s your reaction to these situations that pose the most danger.
If you’ve ever searched through your bag to grab a snack for the kids or reached into the backseat to break up a fight, you’ve participated in distracted driving.
The good news is, there are easy ways to prevent it from happening again:
- Have a talk beforehand and explain to your kids the importance of being a safe driver
- Make sure the kids eat ahead of time or pack snacks in the backseat for long car trips. Be sure to pull over into an En Route or safe parking zone if they need help eating
- Always make bathroom trips BEFORE getting into the car
- Arm the kids with their favourite toys or games to prevent boredom, fights or tantrums that could disrupt your driving
With the seemingly never-ending list of distractions, I’m personally pleased to see that the fine for distracted driving in Ontario has gone up.
By how much exactly? Find out in the blog I wrote on Onario’s Newest Traffic Laws. You might be surprised just how strict the province has become.
In the end, it’s all about safety. If you can’t devote your full attention to driving because of another activity, it’s a distraction and you need to deal with it before getting behind the wheel.
What steps have you taken to prevent distracted driving? I look forward to hearing from you in the comments below.