New poll shows more Canadians believe they can safely drive while texting: Targeted enforcement and education are needed

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Ottawa, ON June 27, 2022 – (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) has released, Road Safety Monitor 2021: Distracted Driving Attitudes and Practices, 2004-2021, with sponsorship from Beer Canada and Desjardins. This new fact sheet examines the current status of beliefs and practices related to distracted driving and recent trends. The growing use of cell phones has increased attention to driver distraction, primarily focused on texting and talking.

“The poll showed that despite most Canadians recognizing the dangers of texting and driving, there was an increasing minority who continued to report engaging in these behaviours,” shares Robyn Robertson, TIRF President & CEO. “Of greatest concern, this minority has more than doubled in the past decade. For the second year in a row, the size of this group has significantly surpassed the size of the group of drivers who admitted to driving while over the illegal limit for alcohol.”

In addition, the percentage of respondents who believe they can safely drive while texting has increased in the past three years, exceeding its peak in 2010. These self-report data suggest drivers have become increasingly comfortable texting while driving. Equally concerning is a growing proportion of Canadians who self-reported talking on their handheld phone while driving, which has increased every year for the past four years.

Generally, concern about distracted drivers rose from a low of 33% in 2004 and peaked in 2017, before substantially dropping to 57% in 2021. Further, concern specifically related to cell phone use while driving rose from a low of 61% in 2004 to 71% in 2021, with a peak in 2017. Conversely, concern about texting while driving has slightly declined from 89.9% in 2010 to 81% in 2021.

“With respect to the prevalence of self-reported distracted driving behaviours, there has been a concerning uptick in the percentage of Canadians reporting talking on a handheld device while driving as well as reporting texting while driving,” says Sarah Simmons, TIRF Research Scientist. “The percentages of drivers engaging in these two risky behaviours has consistently increased in the past four years which suggests more targeted enforcement and education are needed.”

The significant 173% increase in the percentage of respondents who reported they often texted on their phone while driving between 2010 (4.8%) and 2021 (13.1%) warrants the most attention. In addition, a comparison between 2019 to 2021 showed talking on a handheld device while driving increased from almost 12% to just over 14%, and texting while driving increased from close to 10% to just over 13%. Conversely, talking on a hands-free device only slightly decreased from 32.4% to 31.7%.

“The increase in some risky distracted driving behaviours may be due, in part, to complacency among drivers combined with reduced capacity for enforcement in the past few years. The emergence of new cameras to detect distraction create opportunities to strengthen and increase the consistency of enforcement using a cost-efficient approach. Exploring the potential of new technologies is a worthwhile endeavour to help reinforce the deterrent effects of laws and shift social norms,” says Robertson.

Download fact sheet in English & French:

About the poll
These results are based on the RSM, an annual public opinion poll developed and conducted by TIRF. A total of 1,500 Canadians completed the poll in September 2021. Results can be considered accurate within plus or minus 2.5%, 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

About TIRF
The vision of the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) is to ensure people using roads make it home safely every day by eliminating road deaths, serious injuries and their social costs. TIRF’s mission is to be the knowledge source for safe road users and a world leader in research, program and policy development, evaluation, and knowledge transfer. TIRF is a registered charity and depends on grants, awards, and donations to provide services for the public. Visit www.tirf.ca.

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For more information, please contact:

Karen Bowman
Director, Communications & Programs
Traffic Injury Research Foundation
613-238-5235 (office)
1-877-238-5235 (toll-free)
250-797-0833 (direct)
613-238-5292 (fax)
tirf@tirf.ca / karenb@tirf.ca