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Cell phones and driving don't mix - even hands free

Okay - this seems like common sense to most people, yet you still see lots of people driving distracted. A quote from the CBC news piece (linked to at the bottom of this post) indicates that...

"Nearly half of the study participants hit something after taking a call"

Full Press Release:

On January 24th, 2010 RoadAwareness.ca hosted a Distracted Driving Experiment at Formula Kartways in Brampton, ON. The objective was simple enough…take drivers with various levels of experience and get them to drive while distracted. Each driver was subjected to various exercises including a slalom course, swerve & avoid as well as reaction time tests. At first participants drove without any distractions but later had to perform the same tests while talking on a cell phone (including using hands-free kits) and while texting.

With our affiliation with Toronto Police Services Traffic Service Division, Constable Hugh Smith was on hand to speak to the media and participants about road awareness and distracted driving. We also had Scott Marshall and James Kilpatrick of Young Drivers of Canada observing and gauging the results of the participants.

The results were obvious to everyone. Any distraction, including talking with a hands-free kit, seriously affected the drivers situational awareness, skill level and reaction time. One driver actually had to stop on the track to read and reply to a text message. Other drivers were observed driving more slowly so that they could engage in a text conversation or phone call. Kathy Buckworth (author of The Blackberry Diaries) had to slow her driving by 50% so that she could still negotiate the course safely, although she still hit some of the cones on the course.

Many Provinces across the country have already enacted some form of law either limiting or out-right banning the use of hand-held devices but will such laws really help? Fining someone for using their phone while driving seems rather “re-active”. What about being “pro-active”? What about adding funding and resources to educate drivers that choosing to allow in-car distractions is actually dangerous? We all have a choice. We can choose to ignore our phone and Blackberry while driving. We can choose to not apply make-up or shave on our way to work. We can choose to be safer drivers.

Driver complacency and lack of “situational awareness” is one of the most serious issues on our roads and is certainly something that can be addressed. It’s only driver awareness and advanced skills training that will make our roads a safer place. I would rather teach people to avoid collisions than fine them after the fact.

The study received some coverage on the CBC - Watch the news piece HERE.



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