There is a lack of data in Canada on specific characteristics of auto collisions caused by distracted driving, and a national working group should be established to address the problem, the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) suggested in a report announced Wednesday by The Co-operators Group Ltd.
The Co-operators of Guelph, Ont. said it plans to provide funding to TIRF to establish a working group on distracted driving.
“Because distracted driving is still an emerging issue, and one that falls under provincial jurisdiction, bringing together stakeholders to help develop a strategic plan at a national level will be very valuable work,” stated Kathy Bardswick, president and chief executive officer of The Co-operators, in a release.
TIRF’s report is titled Distracted Driving in Canada: Making Progress, Taking Action.
“The information in this report will serve as a resource for the National Working Group on Distracted Driving as well as decision-makers across the country who share our concern for road safety,” Bardswick stated.
Ottawa-based TIRF is a registered charity that conducts research on auto collisions. TIRF plans to work with Drop It And Drive (DIAD) – a British Columbia-based distracted driving educational campaign – to form the working group.
In its report, TIRF noted there are “two notable gaps” in data collection. One is the types of distraction that are most strongly associated with collisions and the other is the characteristics of distracted driving collisions.
The report was based both on results from an online questionnaire and on interviews. The “online environmental scan” – conducted in 2014 – “was disseminated to more than 45 organizations engaged in road safety who were identified by TIRF, D.I.A.D. and the (Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators) based on their collective knowledge and experience with this issue in Canada,” TIRF said. “A total of 40 individuals representing organizations in seven different provinces participated and completed the online scan.”
Participants worked in police agencies, provincial governments, municipal governments and insurance organizations, among others.
One topic was the effect of collisions on insurance premiums.
“While one-quarter (24%) of respondents indicated that insurance premiums were indeed affected by distracted driving crashes, almost three-quarters (74%) said they did not know if this was the case,” TIRF noted. “Yet when asked if distracted driving offences should be reflected in insurance premiums, the large majority (85%) of respondents indicated yes.”
Some of the respondents interviewed for the study “suggested that vehicle impoundment should be considered as a penalty for multiple distracted driving violations, although such impoundment programs are inconsistently used across jurisdictions,” TIRF noted.
The Co-operators “has provided funding to TIRF” to establish the National Working Group and organize a national meeting,” TIRF added in the report.
“The purpose of the Working Group is to undertake the development of a strategic plan that can guide and help structure coordinated efforts to reduce distracted driving,” according to the report. “As a first step in this process, TIRF, in partnership with D.I.A.D. is reaching out to other organizations undertaking work on this issue to ensure that the tasks of the National Working Group will be complementary and coordinated with other activities in the field.”
TIRF noted that every Canadian province and territory except Nunavut “has passed legislation to reduce the use of handheld electronic devices, such as cellphones, by drivers.”
Alberta has expanded its law to prohibit other types of distractions, such as eating, drinking, reading, writing and personal grooming, TIRF added.
Nova Scotia, B.C. and Ontario increased their fines, TIRF noted.
In Ontario, Bill 31 was passed into law this past June. That law raised the minimum fine from $60 to $300 and the maximum fine from $500 to $1,000. It also expanded sanctions for impaired drivers to those who are on drugs – in addition to those who are drunk.