Do you text message while driving? Juggle with your hand-held cell phone? If so, you’re a distracted driver, and you’re breaking the law. You're also risking your life, and the lives of others.
It is against the law in Nova Scotia to use a hand-held cell phone or text-message while driving. This has been the law since 2008. You can use a hand-held cell phone if it is an emergency, and using the hands-free function on a cell phone is also still allowed. The fine for using a hand-held cell-phone or text-messaging while driving is $237.50 (first offence), and 4 points are added to your driving record if convicted.
All Canadian provinces have laws prohibiting drivers from using hand-held electronic devices while driving. Some provinces restrict the use of many electronic devices, not just cell phones, including GPS and MP3 players, and also ban activities like personal grooming, reading and writing while driving.
A 2009 telephone survey by the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators indicated that 22% of 1,445 Nova Scotia drivers interviewed were still using a hand-held device, even after the new law came into effect. In a recent Canada-wide survey by the Traffic Industry Research Foundation (TIRF) about 36% of drivers admitted to using their cell phones while driving, despite provincial laws prohibiting their use. According to TIRF's 2015 Distracted Driving in Canada report, in 2014 at least 3 Canadian jurisdictions reported distracted driving equalled or exceeded impaired driving.
These laws are a response to a growing body of research showing that driving while distracted greatly increases your chances of having a crash. Using a cell phone while driving means you’re more than twice as likely to fail to stop at an intersection, and 4 times more likely to have a crash. Driver distraction is a factor in between 20 to 30% of car crashes in North America. A 2013 Canadian Family Physician report noted that cell phone use causes distraction comparable to driving under the influence of alcohol or cannabis, and further, that text messaging increases collision rates by 23%.
Seasoned drivers fare no better than new drivers when it comes to using a cell phone while driving. When using a cell phone all drivers fail to properly scan the road, and get much closer to pedestrians and other hazards before seeing them, if they see them at all. Perhaps surprisingly, there may be no advantage to using a hands-free versus a hand-held cell phone; research shows that using either significantly increases your risk of crashing (See sources below). The bottom line? Put your cell phone and other distractions away, and focus on driving. Nothing is more important when you're behind the wheel.
For more information and tips:
- The RCMP's "Leave the Phone Alone" social media campaign encouragesCanadians to publicly commit, by signing an online pledge, to avoid all distractions while driving. For more information go to rcmp-grc.gc.ca/cycp-cpcj/dd-dv/ltpa-lflc-eng.htm or check out the RCMP on Facebook or Twitter (#LeavethePhoneAlone)
- Insurance Bureau of Canada Driver Distraction research
- Traffic Industry Research Foundation - www.tirf.ca, and 2015 Distracted Driving: Making Progress, Taking Action research
- Fatal Distraction: Cell phone use while driving (2013), Canadian Family Physician
Updated July 2016