In my line of work, I’ve seen it all. From someone causing a four car pile up because they stopped to let a squirrel cross the road to another person being rear-ended by someone applying makeup while driving.
The results of these accidents can be dire: fatalities or injuries that plague victims for months or years; increased premiums; loss of demerit points.
“Distracted and inattentive driving causes more road deaths than drinking and driving and speed combined, according to the Ontario Provincial Police.” And that article was from 2012! Things haven’t improved since then.
The Case Against Distracted Driving
Distracted driving doesn’t just mean using a phone while behind the wheel, although that certainly accounts of a lot of the cases. According to the RCMP, distracted driving is “…a form of impaired driving as a driver’s judgment is compromised when they are not fully focused on the road. Distracted driving qualifies as:
- talking on a cell phone
- reading (e.g. books, maps, and newspapers)
- using a GPS
- watching videos or movies
- personal grooming,
- adjusting the radio/CD and playing extremely loud music
- even talking to passengers and driving while fatigued (mentally and/or physically) can be forms of distracted driving.” (Source)
That’s a list that goes the long way around to saying that the only thing you should be doing when you’re behind the wheel is driving.
I bet you’re thinking: ‘easier said than done, Derek’, but consider this: drivers using text messaging while driving are 23 times more likely to get into an accident. You think you’re just sending a quick note to your boss, but in the time it takes you to look up at the road again, it could be too late.
There are ways you can help yourself:
- If you don’t trust yourself not to respond to text messages, you can set up a driving ‘do not disturb’ that replies to anyone who texts you that you’re currently driving and will see their message when you get to your destination.
- Avoid temptation by putting your phone in the back seat or trunk.
- Make sure your bluetooth is set up correctly for calls that simply cannot wait. That said, your level of attention even using hands free technology is diminished significantly so you need to consider whether a call is worth it! You’re much better off to pull over safely, put the car in park and make your call then.
One of the biggest distractions in the car? Kids. I know… You can’t live with them, you can’t strap them to the roof!
Reaching back to grab a dropped toy is all it takes for you to rear-end another vehicle, or worse, veer out of your lane into oncoming traffic.
The best advice here is an ounce of prevention. If that means turning on a video for long drives, to keep the little ones quiet, so be it. Screaming kids in the back seat will not only drive you to distraction but they will distract your driving.
The Next Two Important Causes Of Car Accidents
Speeding and impaired driving are the next two causes on the list. They are both highly preventable, at least on your part.
Unfortunately, too many people still drink and drive and if you are the victim of an accident involving an impaired driver, you will have a strong cause of action to get compensation for your injuries. But that’s small consolation for the fact that it happened at all
As I pointed out in a previous post, speeding will typically NOT save time and in fact significantly increases your risk of having a collision.
I have an old friend who habitually drives in the slow lane. He swears up and down that he gets to his destinations both faster and happier. In my youth, I definitely drove on the aggressive and impatient side, and it tested my patience to no end to drive with this friend.
But one day we put his theories to the test and I discovered that he was RIGHT. When I drove in the slow lane, I often arrived at the exact same time as those who were driving in the fast lane, above the limit, and often weaving in and out of traffic to shave an extra few seconds off the commute.
One wife and two children later, I credit this friend with making me a much safer – and slower – driver.
In a rush? Take a breath, put on some easy listening music, and relax in the slow lane. You’ll get there just as quickly, but the journey will be far more enjoyable. Nowadays I welcome the calm before I arrive home to a chaotic house filled with young boys and their buddies.
Some Other Causes of Accidents To Consider
- Running a red light—a car going the opposite way could be right in your path before you know it.
- Bad weather—it’s easy to say ‘stay home’ when the weather is bad, but when we have lives, jobs and responsibilities, it really is easier said than done. The best advice is to slow down. If a speed demon in a pickup is aggressively pushing you along, let him fume/let him pass. It’s not worth your getting upset about.
- Lane changes—having your side mirrors improperly set up and making changes without signaling create a lot of accidents. Don’t forget to shoulder check and signal.
- Following too close—you never know when someone in front of you might stop their vehicle. Perhaps they see a child darting out between two cars. You can’t see that, but if you’re following too close, you’re bound to rear-end the vehicle in front of you. Back off and leave some space. Three car-lengths if you can.
You can’t control other drivers, but you can take care that, when you’re behind the wheel, you’re doing everything possible to stay safe. If you are the victim of a car accident, take the necessary steps to ensure that if you’re injured, you can be compensated appropriately.