The Road Safety Monitor – Distracted Driving


The Road Safety Monitor (RSM) is a unique, annual public opinion survey that takes the pulse of the nation on key traffic safety issues and tracks changes in behaviours, attitudes, and, opinions of Canadians by means of a telephone and on-line survey of a random, representative sample of Canadian drivers. The increased accessibility and affordability of cell phones has focused attention on the issue of distracted driving in the past decade. Although Canadians most often identify cell phones with distracted driving, research shows that any time spent focused on non-driving related tasks while behind the wheel puts drivers and other road users at risk. In general, available research generally estimates that driver distraction is a factor in 20% – 30% of road crashes.

In recent years, most jurisdictions in Canada have implemented legislation banning the use of handheld devices and imposed escalating penalties for violations. However, some Canadians persist in engaging in non-driving activities behind the wheel. The 2019 poll revealed an increase in the percentage of Canadians who reported talking on their handheld phone while driving (11.7% in 2019 versus 8.6% in 2010). Perhaps most concerning, was a 102% increase in the percentage reporting texting while driving in 2019 (9.7%) compared to 2010 (4.8%) – 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. The poll also revealed 74% of respondents were concerned with drivers using cell phones, 85.9% reported concern for drivers texting while driving and 58.3% reported concern for drivers distracted by entertainment systems, vehicle apps, passengers or eating or drinking. The percentage of drivers concerned about cell phone use while driving has risen from 61.3% in 2004 to 74% in 2019 whereas concern about texting while driving has decreased slightly from 89.9% in 2010 to 85.9% in 2019. These self-report data suggest drivers’ comfort level with using cell phones for talking while driving is stable, but they have become less comfortable with texting while driving over time. The increase seen in 2019 over 2018 suggests continued messaging and enforcement are needed to reinforce how dangerous this behaviour is and to avoid complacency among the public.

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Project Status: Ongoing

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