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How long will it take before distracted driving campaigns take hold?


May 16, 2018   by Jason Contant


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Similar to drunk driving campaigns that took years to take hold before people realized others were getting injured or killed and that it was unacceptable, distracted driving campaigns may also take a while to fully work, Aviva Canada’s chief underwriting officer told Canadian Underwriter Tuesday.

“Kind of like with that [drunk driving] campaign, it starts with awareness and I think that’s what it’s going to take for distracted driving,” Phil Gibson said in an interview. “We all see it out there; we need to stop tolerating it.”

For Gibson, it is just a matter of people making up their minds that “this is really an issue and this kind of increase in accidents, it’s just not acceptable as a society.”

More law enforcement or even technology solutions such as cellphone blockers might not solve the problem. “I hope it’s something that people can take personal accountability for,” Gibson said, adding that he is leading by example and setting his phone on Do Not Disturb. “I put it in the glove compartment so I don’t hear it buzz and instinctively have to pick it up.”

Gibson made his comments after Aviva Canada released data showing that despite increased penalties and fines, the insurer continues to see a trend of increased claims linked to distracted driving. The claims data, collected from 2016 to year-to-date March 2018, found:

  • The highest percentage increase was in Alberta, where distracted-driving related accidents jumped 58%;
  • Quebec saw an increase of 34%;
  • The national increase for Canada was 23%;
  • The Greater Toronto Area saw an increase of 18%;
  • Ontario saw an increase of 12%; and
  • The Atlantic region saw an increase of 8%.

Gibson said that Aviva is not sure why there is a discrepancy between the provinces. There are, however, several hypotheses, such as the average of people in Alberta is younger than other provinces and the province has long stretches of open roads that may prompt bored drivers to pick up their phones. “We don’t know the why yet, but we are going to continue looking at it.”

In support of National Road Safety Week from May 15 to 21, Aviva Canada has launched an “Undistracted Driving” campaign. “The thought behind the campaign… is you and I have all the tools we need already. Every phone I’m aware of has an airplane mode or a Do Not Disturb mode, so I would hope people would try it out this week and see if they don’t like it better,” Gibson said.

Part of the campaign includes an experiment involving three drivers – two Aviva Canada employees and one broker – equipped with cameras in their cars and asked to not use any devices in their cars for the week.

A public opinion poll of more than 1,500 Canadians released last fall found that almost all (95%) said that texting and driving by others makes them feel unsafe on the roads. Almost nine in 10 (88%) reported witnessing other drivers texting while behind the wheel; almost four in five (78%) said they want to see a technology solution that would stop distracted driving by disabling texting and other functions while the driver is behind the wheel.