OTTAWA, Ont. – Don’t read this article on your phone if you’re behind the wheel.
New research by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) continues to demonstrate that texting and calling while driving is on the rise.
Almost one in 10 Canadian drivers (9.7%) admitted to texting while driving in 2019, up from 7.5% in 2018, and essentially double the rate seen in 2010. Talking on a handheld device while driving was even more common, at 11.7%, compared to 9.3% in 2018. But talking on a hands-free device was reported by 32%, down from 36.5% last year.
Canadian drivers also appear to be slightly less concerned about texting at the wheel, says Ward Vanlaar, chief operating officer at TIRF.
The increase in texting is “most concerning” because the distraction equates to driving while legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration of .08, researchers add.
“Even though most Canadians appeared to understand one of the high-risk forms of distracted driving (i.e., texting while driving) was indeed dangerous, there was a minority who were unaware of, or resistant to this fact,” TIRF observes. “Most concerning, this minority has doubled in the past decade; the size of this group has now surpassed the size of the group of drivers who admitted to driving while over the legal limit for alcohol.”
More than one in four respondents (26.4%) admitted they often take their eyes off the road for more than two seconds while driving.
Age was identified as a key factor in the likelihood of the distracted driving. For every 10-year increase in age, drivers were 44% less likely to text, 38% less likely to use a handheld phone, and 28% less likely to use a hands-free phone, the researchers say. Men were 62% more likely to use a handheld phone and 50% more likely to use a hands-free phone.
“While age and sex may be stable predictors of distracted driving, when considering the estimated numbers of Canadian drivers engaging in the behavior, it is clear distracted driving is common regardless of age and sex,” said Craig Lyon, senior research scientist at TIRF.
About half of those surveyed (49.6%) agreed that talking on a handheld or hands-free device was dangerous, and 42% said the use of cell phones while driving should be banned – up from 35.3% who supported such a ban in 2018, but down from the 67.7% who supported the idea in 2010.
TIRF was still concerned by those drivers who admitted to using hands-free phones while driving in 2019, noting that it still takes attention away from driving.
The results were based on a poll of 1,200 drivers in 2019.