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Will You Take The D.O.N.T. Pledge?

“Distracted driving is cited as a causal factor in 30 to 50 percent of traffic collisions in Ontario, but is probably much higher due to under-reporting.” (Source)

This fact is from the Ontario Provincial Police and they know better than anyone what the results of distracted driving are. A CBC article from 2012 pointed out that distracted driving related road deaths numbered more than DUI and speeding accidents combined. And that was in 2012, so you can imagine that the number has probably increased since then.

D.O.N.T. stands for “Drive Only… Never Text!”. The pledge, created by the Ontario Brain Injury Associate, serves as a reminder to all of us that when we get behind the wheel of the car, we are in effect working with a 2 ton weapon. Getting distracted during the handling of a vehicle is dangerous, reckless and shows a total disregard for the sanctity of life.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Before you start saying: “But Derek, I NEVER text on my phone while driving!”, consider this list of activities, each of which fall under the header of distracted driving:

  • talking on a cell phone
  • texting
  • reading (e.g. books, maps, and newspapers)
  • using a GPS
  • watching videos or movies
  • eating/drinking
  • smoking
  • 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)

Do you drink coffee while you’re driving? If you spill it and rear end someone, you could be charged with distracted driving. Or perhaps you like to apply lipstick while you roar down the 401? Think again!

“Texting while driving is the same as driving blind for 5 seconds at a time.” (Source)

The Consequences Of Distracted Driving

There are so many consequences that stem from distracted driving that it begs the question: why would anyone do it? Yet, year over year, distracted driving continues to be at the root of so many accidents. I’m not talking about fender benders either, which would be bad enough.

The consequences can be as little as fines and demerit points. In Ontario, those START at $1000 and 3 demerit points. You could also end up with a three-day suspension of your driver’s license. That’s for a first offence. But if you get charged with careless driving or you’ve been charged with distracted driving before, fines go up to $2000-$3000, 6 demerit points and longer license suspensions.

The bigger consequences of distracted driving include serious injuries to yourself, others in your vehicle or the victims in other vehicles. According to the US Centre for Disease Control: “Brain injury is the leading killer and disabler of people under the age of 44 and kills more people under the age of 20 than other causes combined.” If you consider that 40% of brain injury victims received that injury as a result of a collision, you can imagine how many of those were at least partially caused by distracted driving.

If that isn’t sobering enough, these stats from the Insurance Bureau of Canada should make you think twice before picking up your phone while driving:

  1. You are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if you text while driving and 4 times more likely if you talk on a cellphone (hand-held or hands-free) while driving.
  2. A distracted driver may fail to see up to 50% of the available information in the driving environment. You may look but not actually “see” what is happening.
  3. A study showed that nearly 80% of collisions and 65% of near-collisions involved some form of driver inattention up to three seconds prior to the event.

Traumatic brain injury, even milder cases, are often injuries that victims live with for the rest of their lives.

Help Yourself To Avoid Distracted Driving

  • Take the pledge and share it with your friends and family. If we all step up, we can make driving distracted as socially unacceptable as drinking and driving. That will go a long way to stemming the flow of serious and fatal collisions.
  • If you know that you have difficulty ignoring your phone, put it away: in the trunk, in the back seat… somewhere you can’t reach it on a whim. You can also set up an auto reply text feature that lets people know that you are driving and cannot answer their text for the time being.
  • If you must be available for phone calls, make sure that you’ve connected your phone to your car’s bluetooth system—a function that is standard in most newer makes and models of vehicles. Just remember that even with hands free tech, you can still be distracted when focusing on your conversation instead of the road.

It only takes a moment of distraction to completely upend your life, and those of others on the road. Take a moment before you get behind the wheel, focus your attention and remember that no one wants to be a statistic.

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