What is distracted driving?

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**** Transport Canada Release

Distracted driving puts Canadian road users at risk. Learn about distracted driving, how you can avoid it, and what is happening in Canada to prevent distraction on our roads.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving happens when a driver’s attention is taken away from the driving task because they are focused on something else. This could be, for example:

  • texting
  • talking on the phone or to passengers
  • eating or drinking
  • using the entertainment or navigation system

The risk of a collision goes up when a driver’s eyes and attention are taken off the road. This is because distraction impairs performance and reduces a driver’s awareness. It makes drivers slower to notice and less able to safely respond to critical events on the road. Or they may miss them entirely.

According to data from Transport Canada’s National Collision Database, distracted driving contributed to an estimated 21% of fatal collisions and 27% of serious injury collisions in 2016. These statistics are part of an upward trend of distracted driving-related collisions, up from 16% of fatal collisions and 22% of serious injury collisions a decade earlier.

Take action: help stop distracted driving

Distracted driving puts Canada’s road users at risk. This includes drivers, passengers, pedestrians and cyclists.

Every driver can help stop distracted driving on our roads. How?

  • Never text while driving, even when you are stopped in traffic or at a traffic light
  • If you must send or receive a call or text, pull over to a safe location and park your car first
  • Avoid using any device that may take your attention away from the task of driving
    • This includes changing the settings on your navigation system or browsing the menu on your infotainment system
  • Keep your eyes on the road and safely control your vehicle at all times
  • Encourage friends and family to drive distraction-free

Distracted driving in Canada: what we are doing

The Government of Canada is dedicated to improving safety on our roads. We actively work with the provinces and territories, and other road safety stakeholders, to find ways to reduce driver distraction. With the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, we are developing a national way forward on distracted driving. This will include public awareness, training, technology, countermeasures, data collection and research.

We encourage vehicle and electronics manufacturers to design devices that are compatible with safe driving, and to follow all relevant safety guidelines and best practices.

Tools and resources

We have been investigating the issue of distracted driving for a number of years. Our research has contributed to international guidelines and standards. We are also engaging stakeholders and developing tools and resources to assess and lessen distracted driving in Canada:

  • Guidelines to Limit Distractions from Visual Displays (February 2019)Transport Canada created these guidelines to help reduce distraction from visual displays in vehicles. This report recommends how to safely design, install and use in-vehicle visual displays. These guidelines apply to visual displays drivers use while their vehicle is moving. In some instances, the guidelines recommend to block access to more distracting displays while the vehicle is moving. In other cases they recommend that interactions and tasks be simplified in a way that helps to reduce distraction.
  • Distracted Driving White Paper (December 2018)This white paper was developed by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, of which Transport Canada is a member. It provides information to its members as they develop policy and laws on distracted driving. The paper summarizes work carried out to date on distracted driving and identifies gaps in knowledge. This work will support and inform the jurisdictions as they look at their own efforts to address distracted driving.
  • National Roundtable on Distracted Driving (June 2018)As part of the National Way Forward, on June 28, 2018, Transport Minister Marc Garneau hosted a national roundtable to discuss the serious safety challenges associated with distracted driving. During the event key stakeholders considered a coordinated approach for addressing this issue.
  • Transport Canada’s driving simulatorThe simulator is a research tool that allows us to safely study driver interactions with technologies. The simulator research supports us in developing guidelines and international standards, and helps to inform policy. We use eye-tracking technology to allow us to precisely measure driver visual behaviour and to quantify things like visual distraction.

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