Canadian Underwriter

Distracted driving a factor in more fatalities than impaired driving: OPP

April 15, 2013   by Canadian Underwriter

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In Ontario, distracted driving-related fatalities surpassed impaired driving fatalities in 2012, according to the Ontario Provincial Police. 


Within the OPP’s jurisdiction, the police say 83 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents and close to 16,000 distracted driving charges were laid. Officers continue to see careless drivers texting, talking and engaging in various forms of distraction, the OPP says. 

While texting is among the most dangerous activities to carry out while driving, distracted driving refers to all forms of distracted or inattentive driving, such as talking on the phone, eating and drinking, personal grooming and tending to children in the backseat.

In the United States, of the more than 65,000 people killed in car crashes over the past two years, one in 10 were in crashes where at least one of the drivers was distracted, according to police data in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Erie Insurance, a multi-line insurance company which operates in 11 states, analyzed the 2010 and 2011 data in FARS, a nationwide census of fatal motor vehicle traffic crashes maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. 

According to Doug Smith, senior vice president of personal lines at Erie Insurance, FARS data on distraction is based largely on police officers’ judgment at the time of the crash, and because some people may be reluctant to admit they were distracted when being interviewed by police after a fatal car crash, the numbers are difficult to verify and may, in fact, under-represent the seriousness and prevalence of driving distractions.

The top 10 distractions involved in fatal car crashes, based on police reports analyzed by Erie Insurance, are:

10. Smoking related distractions, such as smoking, lighting up, etc.

9. Moving object in the vehicle, including a pet or insect

8. Using devices or controls integral to the vehicle, including adjusting mirrors and seats, or OEM navigation systems

7. Adjusting audio or climate controls

6. Eating or drinking

5. Using or reaching for an external device, such as a navigational system, headphones, etc.

4. Other occupants, be it looking at them or talking to them

3. Outside person, object or event — rubbernecking

2. Cell phone use, including talking and texting

1. Generally distracted or lost in thought: daydreaming

In Ontario, the OPP is hosting its Distracted Driving Campaign this week. They are asking drivers to take a hard line on distracted driving, making April 15 the first day of a life-long commitment to keep all hand-held devices out of reach and out of use while behind the wheel.

During the campaign, officers will be targeting distracted driving, which includes any form of distraction they observe as impairing a motorist’s driving ability.  

The OPP is asking Ontarians to share their stories on Facebook about the dangerous driver behaviour or near misses they have observed from motorists driving distracted.