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distracted driving behaviours

Beyond the Phone: New BCAA Distracted Driving survey reveals ‘multitasking’ behaviours putting lives at risk

BC motorists consider themselves focused but admit to distracted driving incidents

Burnaby, B.C., June 1, 2021 – A new BCAA Distracted Driving Survey reveals that BC drivers understand the dangers of using cell phones while driving, but fail to see the problems of other inattentive behaviours they regularly do behind the wheel that put lives in danger, such as interacting with passengers, playing with the vehicle’s dashboard features and eating and drinking.

Distracted driving is the second leading cause of fatal collisions in BC each year and in the BCAA survey, BC drivers confess to doing a lot more behind the wheel than driving. While most initially said that changing the music was their one distraction, when probed further, many admitted to many more inattentive behaviours: from interacting with passengers (76%) to adjusting the climate control (74%), or scanning for street signs and numbers (71%). Other confessions included eating and drinking, checking their phones at red lights, and enjoying scenery to name a few.

“Sometimes, drivers are doing several things at once that take their focus away,” says Shawn Pettipas, BCAA’s Director, Community Engagement. “Yet drivers don’t see what they’re doing as distractions but as “multitasking”, a description that doesn’t reflect the true danger of their actions.”

While 93% consider themselves “focused” drivers, at the same time nearly one in four (22 per cent) admit to having been in an accident or near miss due to distracted driving. “Something is wrong with this picture,” says Pettipas. “There is a real blind spot that all of us as drivers need to address.”

Dr. Ian Pike, Co-Executive Director with The Community Against Preventable Injuries agrees. He points out that there is no such thing as multitasking and that the human brain can only effectively do one thing at a time. “As people can rapidly switch their attention back and forth across tasks, they falsely believe that they can “multitask” when the reality is that they aren’t doing a good job of anything, which is frightening given the responsibility of driving.”

Road environments can change instantly, making losing focus behind the wheel a serious risk. According to Preventable, a distracted driver going 100 kms per hour travels essentially blind for 52 metres – or the length of an entire hockey rink – in just two seconds. And handsfree communications aren’t always the solution. People are distracted for up to 27 seconds after they send a “voice text” – a frightening fact given travelling distance in that time.

driver behind the wheel

BCAA tips for focused driving:

While Pettipas understands the challenges of focusing behind the wheel, he points to some practical things we can all do to focus:

Set boundaries: alert anyone who may be in touch that you’re driving and unreachable. Set “I’m driving” auto messages and store your device where you can’t see or access it.

Use a co-pilot: recruit passengers to help you focus. Put them in charge of anything that could distract you. Let them adjust the stereo or climate controls, find street addresses, and minimize engrossing conversations.

Plan ahead: look up addresses and directions before you set off. Set your playlist. Eat before or after you drive or plan where you’ll stop to grab a bite. Harness your dog. Set your kids up with entertainment.

“Everything can wait,” says Pettipas. “Free yourself from your usual responsibilities. You have control and the most important thing to remember is that multitasking while driving is distracted driving.” For more about the risks, and tips to stay safe, visit the Distracted Driving section of the BCAA website.

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About Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is the second leading cause of fatal collisions, responsible for more than 25 per cent of all car crash fatalities in B.C. Every year, an average of 76 people die in motor vehicle collisions in BC because the driver was distracted or not paying attention.

About the Survey
These are the findings of a study/survey conducted by BCAA from February 23 to 26, 2021 with a representative sample of 805 online British Columbians (18+) who are members of the Angus Reid Forum, have a valid BC driver’s license and drive regularly. The precision of Angus Reid Forum online polls is measured using a credibility interval. In this case, the poll is accurate to within +/- 3.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all Canadians been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.