Cellphones and Driving

There are more than 21,000,000 cellphone users in Canada – that’s two out of every three Canadians! And as we spend more time in our vehicles, it seems that we also spend more time on our cellphones while we’re driving.

Many of us treat driving as down time that can be made more productive. But cellphone use is the number one cause of distracted driving, taking your hands, eyes and mind away from the complex task of driving. And that can have disastrous consequences.

Cellphone use increases crash risk

  • Using a cellphone can affect drivers as much or more than having a 0.08 BAC - blood alcohol concentration (the legal limit).
  • Talking increases the risk of crashing by up to four times.
  • Texting increases the risk of crashing by up to 23 times.

Young drivers are at even greater risk

New drivers are inexperienced and have not yet fully developed their driving skills. They are at higher risk of crashing. Young drivers are more likely to talk and text while driving than other age groups. Their crash risk increases dramatically when they are distracted by talking on a cellphone or texting.

Hands-free phones are not the answer

Research shows that the risks associated with the use of cellphones not only come from physically handling or looking at the phone, but also from thinking about the conversation. And stressful or emotional conversations are even more distracting which means they put the driver at even greater risk.

The majority of drivers believe that using a hands-free device while driving is safer. But while fully hands-free cellphones may eliminate the distraction caused by manual dialing, users still think about their conversations, taking their minds away from the task of driving. According to research, talking to someone on a cellphone is significantly more distracting than talking to someone in the car (who can adjust their conversation according to what’s happening).

What can you do?

  1. Plan ahead. Call or send messages before driving your car.
  2. Put a message on your cellphone voicemail that says you are driving and will call back when it is safe to do so.
  3. Turn off your cellphone, BlackBerry® or other electronic communications device before you start driving.
  4. Still tempted? Put your cellphone in your briefcase and your briefcase in the trunk.
  5. Do not send or read text messages or e-mail messages.
  6. Do not use electronic communications devices while at a stoplight as most crashes occur at intersections.
  7. Ask a passenger to operate the phone.
  8. Let someone else drive, freeing you up to make and receive calls.
  9. Be a good role model for other drivers whether it is a member of your family, a friend or colleague.
  10. Take a break. Think of cellphone-free driving as down time.
  11. Become an advocate and encourage others not to use electronic communications devices when they are behind the wheel.

New cellphone laws for drivers

As of January 1, 2010 the use of cellphones and other electronic communications devices by drivers is restricted in BC. The new law requires that:

  • Drivers not send or read text messages or e-mails.
  • Drivers not make or receive calls or hold a cellphone. Hands-free devices (built in or fixed to the vehicle, that are used by pressing a single button once only) will be permitted.
  • Drivers not hold or operate any electronic device. 
  • Learner and Novice drivers (those in the Graduated Licensing Program) not operate hand-held or hands-free cellphones or other electronic communications devices.

For a copy of the BC government’s October 21, 2009 News Release, click here.
For more information you can download and print Cellphones and Driving [PDF]

What an employer can do?

Use the following guidelines to developing a safe driving policy and sample safe driving policy.  Adapt it to suit your specific needs: