When it comes to driving, there are plenty of sources of distraction, starting with a cellphone. It only takes a few seconds of distraction to put your safety and that of others in danger.

Phones are great for getting directions or for listening to music, but you really shouldn’t use it while you’re driving.

Talking and texting while driving, a scourge?

According to the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), distraction is dangerous (French only):

  • 52% of drivers admit to talking on the phone while driving
  • 27% do it fairly often or very often
  • 11% do it on a handheld device
  • 74% do it with a hands-free device
  • 23% admit to sending or reading text messages while driving
  • Among them, 29% do it fairly often or very often

On average, from 2012 to 2016, 107 people were killed and nearly 18,000 suffered injuries attributed to driver distraction.

Not surprisingly, 95% of Quebecers consider that driving while distracted is a serious or very serious problem.

Slight contradiction here: 12% of those surveyed by the SAAQ admit to being distracted while driving.

Do you see yourself in these statistics?

Driving while distracted: The numbers

It’s been proven that using a cellphone or other electronic device while driving greatly diminishes a driver’s reaction time.

Here are some examples:

  • Driving while using a cellphone increases your risk of collision 4 fold and also increases the risk of committing other violations of the Highway Safety Code
  • Driving while using a cellphone is equivalent to driving while intoxicated in terms of reaction time and risk of collision
  • Texting while driving means that the driver’s eyes look away from the road for 4 to 6 seconds. At 90 km/h, this is the same as running across an entire football field blindfolded

Which devices are permitted?

All those installed by the manufacturer:

  • Driving aids like a back-up safety camera, GPS or other screen that displays information like gas consumption, tire pressure, traction system, etc.
  • DVD player in the back seat

Conditions for installing and using a device while driving

Whenever you install a device that displays useful driving information, make sure to follow the instructions.

To make sure the screen doesn’t distract you while driving, set it up before you leave.

Characteristics and conditions for using a device while driving

  • The screen must have simple touch controls that are easy-to-use and accessible
  • Its stand must be firmly affixed to the vehicle
  • It has to be placed in a location that is easy to see

What a device cannot do

  • Hinder your visibility and driving manoeuvres
  • Hide the dashboard instruments
  • Prevent or reduce the proper functioning of other equipment

Which devices are prohibited?

All devices whose screen can be seen from the driver’s seat that do not provide useful driving information.

For example:

  • Smartphone
  • Tablet
  • Portable gaming system
  • Laptop computer
  • Digital video camera
  • Digital camera
  • MP3 player
  • Portable satellite radio
  • DVD player
  • Television

Even when you are in a traffic jam or waiting at a red light, the Highway Safety Code is clear. There are no excuses, even if you say:

  • I had to make/take an urgent call
  • I had to read/send a text
  • I needed to know the time
  • I wanted to listen to music
  • I wanted to consult my agenda
  • I wanted to check a website or my Facebook profile

Only some professionals are authorized by law to use smartphones or other screens while drivng, namely:

  • Police
  • Firefighters
  • Ambulance drivers
  • Taxi drivers who use a taximeter
  • Employees of telecommunications or public utility companies

And what if you do it anyway?

In Quebec, driving while holding a cellphone is punishable by an $80-100 fine and 4 demerit points. The same penalty applies when you fail to properly install and use a device while driving.

4 demerit points are enough to revoke or suspend a learner’s licence.

Other fines could be tacked on if you commit other violations of the Highway Safety Code.

Demerit points and expensive accidents

Racking up demerit points can impact:

  • the annual cost of you driver’s licence
  • your auto insurance premium
  • the validity of your licence, which could be revoked or suspended, and the costs and delays this involves
  • your transportation, if you lose your licence

Driving with a cellphone increases the risk of accidents and increases your auto insurance premium.

Whether you submit a claim to your insurer or not, all accidents in which you are involved as a driver are kept in the Fichier central des sinistres automobiles (FCSA) (central file) for a period of 6 months. Your insurer has access to the FCSA and will consult it when calculating your premium.

Solutions to keep your eyes on the road

Just close your device!

Here’s a shockingly simply solution that costs nothing.

Use your phone in parking lots, rest stops or text stops (with wifi access).

Park your car in a safe and legal location, like the shoulder on a road where the maximum speed limit is under 70 km/h.

Trust your copilot

Hand over your device to the person riding shotgun.

This person will handle whatever cannot wait so that you can focus on your driving.

Take the pledge

Thanks to an initiative by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators, you can pledge to LEAVE THE PHONE ALONE while driving.

There’s an app for that

Drive Safe

The SAAQ created a Drive Safe app that blocks incoming calls and texts on your phone when you’re driving.

An automatic message tells your caller/texter that you are behind the wheel.

Distracted Driving Simulator

This app is a tool designed to illustrate the dangers of being distracted while driving, even for just a few seconds.

App Store

LifeSaver

Parents worry no more! This app is designed to reassure you when your child is driving.

Thanks to geolocalization, LifeSaver allows you to lock a phone when the vehicle is in motion. As soon as the vehicle comes to a stop, the app unlocks the phone.

App Store
Google Play

Highway Safety Code Reforms

Promised by the Minister of Transport, the HSC reform could eventually happen this year.

In fact, the laws governing smartphones while driving may well be tightened.