Distracted Driving as a Leading Cause of Accidents

Distracted driving is the major contributing factor leading to motor vehicle accidents in Canada. On average drivers engage in distracting secondary tasks approximately 30 percent of the time their vehicles are in motion.


Distracted driving is defined by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation and the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA) as “the diversion of attention from driving because the driver is temporarily focused on an object, person, task, or event not related to driving.” Such action reduces the driver’s awareness, decision-making, and/or performance, leading to an increased risk of corrective actions, near-crashes or crashes.


Sources of Driving Distractions


Research shows that the vast majority of distractions (70-80 percent) are due to sources internal to the car (Stutts et al. 2001; Trezise et al. 2006). Talking with passengers is rated as the highest distraction and 81 percent of drivers conversed with passengers on a regular basis while driving, according to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation.


Talking with a passenger or on a cell phone had approximately equal effects on driving performance according to a meta-analysis by Caird et al. (2008). It was found that all conversations increase reaction time to events and activities around and within the vehicles. Twenty-six percent of drivers confirmed using a cell phone while driving in the Traffic Injury Research Foundation survey.


Handheld and hands free cell phone use was found to have similar distracting influences in the various studies on distracted driving. The studies concluded that the main effect of using a cellular device was the cognitive distraction or brain process, not the physical use of the phone that was the source of the distraction.


Other common distractions in the vehicle include changing the radio or CD (for 66 percent of drivers) and eating and drinking, which was the third most reported distraction.


Additionally, new interactive technologies in vehicles are adding distractions, such as navigation systems, dual climate controls, video screens, seat warmers and other multifunction controllers. Every driver who operates a vehicle while personalizing their driving experience with on-board technology is distracted and at a higher risk to cause an accident.


Increased Accident Risks


The risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident as a result of being distracted has been quantified by CAA , whose study found:


  • Texting elevates crash odds by 23 times;
  • Reaching for a moving object increases crash odds by 9 times;
  • Talking on a cell phone increases crash odds by 4-5 times;
  • Dialing a cell phone raises crash odds by 3 times; and
  • Reading or applying make-up raises crash odds by 3 times.


Distractions can cause drivers to miss important danger signals as drivers are really only capable of consciously focusing attention on one task at a time (Smiley 2005). Drivers can suffer from information overload at which point the brain must decide which details will receive attention. Some decisions are conscious and can be controlled and other decisions are subconscious, resulting in a driver over- breaking, speeding up or over- correcting in response to a distraction.


Penalties and Prosecution for Distracted Driving


In 2010 Newfoundland and Labrador banned the use of handheld devices capable of transmitting or receiving phone calls, email, text messages or electronic data. The penalties for violating these provisions of the Highway Traffic Act are a fine ranging from $100 to $400.00 and four demerit points.


Contact Aylward, Chislett & Whitten Law Office, Auto Accident Lawyers in Newfoundland and Labrador


Distracted driving by multi-tasking and socializing in a moving vehicle has become the leading cause of accidents. If you have been injured as the result of a driver's negligence, an experienced car accident lawyer in Newfoundland and Labrador can help you obtain just compensation. Contact our accident claim lawyers in Paradise, Newfoundland and Labrador at 709-726-6000.