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B.C. drivers polled see cellphone use as risky as drinking and driving

Police will focus enforcement on distracted drivers in September

August 30, 2011

B.C. drivers seem to be getting the message that using a cellphone or other hand-held devices while driving is extremely dangerous.

A new Ipsos Reid survey conducted on behalf of ICBC found that nearly nine in ten respondents (87 per cent) believe texting or emailing while driving is one of the most risky things we can do behind the wheel – in fact, 76 per cent believe it’s just as dangerous as drinking and driving. The majority (65 per cent) view talking on a hand-held cellphone while driving as very risky behaviour, and 50 per cent believe it’s just as dangerous as drinking and driving.

“We know that the injuries and fatalities that result from distracted driving are preventable,” said Shirley Bond, Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General. “We all play an important role in making our roads safer. As Government, we have established aggressive legislation and police have done a good job of enforcement. But everyone needs to use their common sense and take action. Think about your friends, family and colleagues, and set an example – driving is a complex task that requires our full attention and when we drive distracted the results can be deadly!"

While the majority of survey respondents recognize the dangers, about 16 per cent admitted they’ve talked on a hand-held cellphone while driving over the last 12 months. And about one-in-10 (nine per cent) confessed they’ve texted or emailed on a hand-held device while driving.

Over 50 per cent of those surveyed reported they see other drivers violating the restrictions on using hand-held devices “several times a day.” And about 20 per cent said they see other drivers violate the restrictions “about once a day.”

“With school back in and fall weather approaching, September can be a dangerous month on B.C.’s roads,” says Chief Constable Jamie Graham, Traffic Committee Chair of the British Columbia Association of Chiefs of Police (BCACP). “It’s illegal and stupid to use your cellphone or text while driving. You are putting people at risk. Statistics show that about a quarter of all deaths in fatal crashes in our province are driver-distraction-related so police are going to continue to recommend tougher sanctions for people who think they’re above the law.”

Why do drivers still talk on a hand-held cellphone while driving? Among those who admitted such behavior, the main excuses were, “I use the speaker function” (42 per cent), “It was a very short call” (42 per cent), “I pulled over after answering the call” (37 per cent) and “I was stopped at a red light,” (29 per cent). Other reasons given included, “Not having a hands-free device” or, “It’s simply a force of habit”.

“Driving is a complex task,” said Fiona Temple, ICBC’s director of road safety. “Many people don’t realize that it’s also illegal to take a call or text while waiting in traffic or stopped for a red light. You lose 50 per cent of what’s going on around you when you’re talking or texting on a hand-held device. This makes you four times more likely to get in a crash. Make smart decisions – whether you’re driving, waiting in traffic or stopped at a red light, let voice mail do its job or pull over if you must take a call.”

For more road safety tips, visit icbc.com. To see the full Ipsos Reid survey on driver distraction, visit http://www.ipsos-na.com/news-polls/pressrelease.aspx?id=5312. To find tips on how to use a cellphone safely while driving and the penalties for breaking the law, go to drivecellsafe.ca.

Media contact:
Kathy Taylor
604-982-2480