Concern about distracted driving in Canada rises dramatically: poll

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Ottawa, October 16, 2019 — The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is pleased to announce a new fact sheet that summarizes trends in attitudes about, and practices related to, distracted driving. The fact sheet is based upon data from the Road Safety Monitor (RSM) which is an annual public opinion survey conducted by TIRF under sponsorship from Beer Canada and Desjardins. Comparing trends from 2004 to 2018, concern related to distracted driving has risen dramatically from a low of 33.4% in 2004 to 75.9% in 2018. The results also indicate that while most Canadians appear to understand that texting while driving is dangerous, a minority do not share this understanding.

Over this time period, 36.5% of Canadians reported talking on their hands-free phone while driving in 2018 compared to 21.7 % in 2010; this is a significant increase. Perhaps most concerning, was the 56% increase to 7.5% in 2018 compared to 4.8% in 2010 in those who reported texting while driving. For a behaviour that can be considered equally impairing as driving under the influence of alcohol with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of .08%, this level of self-reported driving is alarmingly high.

“More concerning than the minority of respondents who didn’t appear to recognize the risks of texting while driving, is that this minority has increased significantly in the past decade,” cautions Ward Vanlaar, Chief Operating Officer of TIRF. “In fact, the size of this group has now surpassed the size of the group of drivers who admit to driving while over the legal limit for alcohol.”

“To put distracted driving in context with other road safety issues, concern with distracted driving was compared to the RSM self-reported concern with drinking and driving. Concern for drinking and driving has decreased from a high of 80.6% in 2004 to a low of 64.5% in 2018,” explains Craig Lyon, Senior Research Scientist at TIRF. “These results demonstrate that, at 75.9%, the issue of distracted driving is now a greater concern for Canadians although there is still a substantial concern with regard to drinking and driving.”

Lyon concludes, “Given that the road environment can change in a matter of seconds, all forms of distraction should be avoided so that drivers can always focus their complete attention on the driving task.”

Download Fact Sheet in English and French:

Road Safety Monitor 2018: Distracted Driving Attitudes and Practices, 2004-2018

Sondage sur la sécurité routière 2018 : Attitudes et pratiques liées à la distraction au volant, 2004 à 2018

About the Traffic Injury Research Foundation:
The mission of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to reduce traffic-related deaths and injuries. TIRF is an independent, charitable road safety research institute. Since its inception in 1964, TIRF has become internationally recognized for its accomplishments in identifying the causes of road crashes and developing programs and policies to address them effectively.

About the poll:
These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,203 Canadians completed the poll in 2018. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.8%, 19 times out of 20. The majority of the questions were answered using a scale from one to six where six indicated high agreement, concern, or support and one indicated low agreement, concern or support.

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For more information, please contact:

Karen Bowman

Director, Marketing and Communications
Traffic Injury Research Foundation
250-797-0833 (cell)

613-238-5235 (office)
1-877-238-5235 (toll-free)
613-238-5292 (fax)