Cell Phone Use And Auto Accidents

There is considerable evidence that cell phone use impairs driving performance, and that this impairment significantly increases collision risk. Furthermore, the majority of Canadians believe that distracted driving is a serious road safety problem. Little is currently known about the actual nature and amount of phone use while driving on Canadian roads. Studies have tried to quantify this by collecting data on observed driver phone use across Canada.

Data on cell phone use by drivers was collected as supplementary information during the observational seat belt use surveys carried out in rural areas of Canada.

Estimated 2.8% (± 0.2%) of drivers in rural communities were using a cell phone. Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Alberta, the Yukon and the Northwest Territories were at or above the national average.

An estimated 5.9% (± 0.4%) of drivers in urban communities were using a cell phone. Ontario and Alberta were at or above the national average.

An estimated 5.5% (± 0.3%) of drivers in Canada were using a cell phone. Ontario and Alberta were at or above the national average.

Transport Canada recommends against using cell phones while driving. Drivers need to stay focused on the driving task. The use of cell phones, and other distractions, impairs the driver’s ability to safely control their vehicle and effectively monitor and respond to events occurring in the road traffic environment. These events are often unpredictable; they could be anything from a changing traffic signal, to a sudden appearance of a pedestrian or bicyclist, to another vehicle stopping directly ahead. There is no “safe time’ for distractions while driving.

Hand-held phone use by drivers was revealed, in this study, to be a common behaviour on Canadian roads, despite the risks and public concern. During the observation period, more than 1 in 10 drivers were observed using a phone in some urban communities. Rates of phone use would have been even higher if they could have also accounted for hands free phones.

The impact of this risky behaviour is likely to increase as wireless communications become even more common. The results of this study highlight the need for further countermeasures to reduce driver phone use. Newfoundland and Labrador banned hand-held phone use by drivers in 2003; Quebec and Nova Scotia followed this and other provinces and territories are actively considering similar legislation.

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