Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Posts Tagged ‘distracted drivers

We don’t need no consultation!

with 2 comments

It is not often I find myself in complete agreement with a spokesperson of the BC NDP. But this evening I heard an interview with B.C. NDP Justice Critic Mike Farnworth on CBC  

“I expected more than a hashtag consultation. I was expecting some leadership shown and some action taken,” he said.

“We know what the problem is. Distracted driving — people texting, people using cell phones while driving — kills people. There’s nothing to consult on.”

BC’s penalties for distracted driving are the lowest in Canada. The BC government thinks it ought to consult on the problem: distracted driving here is now the second leading cause of death due to vehicle collisions, exceeding alcohol but still less than speed.

If you feel so inclined you can be part of the process. That is if you think the paucity of the penalty is the problem.

No doubt after all this song and dance the penalty will increase but nothing much else will actually change. Because the problem is not the perception of the size of the penalty but the perception of the probability of being caught. Most people using hand held electronic devices in their cars while driving know they are breaking the law, but they don’t see it as dangerous. Anymore than they see speeding as dangerous. Or queue jumping, running stale amber lights, parking in bike lanes … and so on. And they know for an absolute certainty that the probability of being caught is about as low as winning the lottery. They still buy lottery tickets of course.

If you could actually catch speeders when they commit the offence you could reduce speeding. Well, we all know what happened to that don’t we. It was unpopular with speeders – so it was dropped like a hot brick. Do you think that the BC Liberals are actually serious about upsetting all those people who continue to take important calls and those crucial text messages they must send? There will be consultation and those angry with other people they see texting will be vociferous. But behaviour will change little if at all. And there will be media events and other hoopla about periodic crackdowns – especially after some well documented collision. Expect a crackdown whenever something newsworthy happens. That probably doesn’t mean your Granny having a near miss on a marked crosswalk.

I suppose I ought to be able to condense that to 140 characters. But I can’t so its a blog post.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 16, 2015 at 8:26 pm

Posted in Road safety

Tagged with

Do distracted drivers bother you?

with 4 comments

I have lost count of the number of times recently I have had to take avoiding action because of the behaviour of other drivers. Some of it of course is simply because of aggressive driving – the sort of people who overtake on the wrong side, cut in front of the line at the last moment or simply ignore signals. But increasing is it noticeable that the offending driver is holding a cell phone – and often gesticulating with the other hand. People who talk on the phone behave as though the person on the other end of the call can see them. This is bizarre  behaviour even when not driving.

Kash Heed, the new Solicitor General, and former police officer seems ready to do something. There is a consultation process that started yesterday and runs until August 7.

The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) recently conducted an extensive review of distracted driving research. The link to the full distracted driving discussion paper can be found below. The following is a summary of some of the research in this paper:

  • Evidence shows that driver distraction, of all types, is associated with approximately 25 per cent of crashes and results in a significant cost to society in terms of tragic loss of life, serious injuries and resulting monetary costs. Activities such as talking on a cell phone and manipulating electronic devices require significant amounts of attention being diverted away from driving tasks.
  • In both simulated and real driving environments, the use of electronic devices has been shown to result in crashes and near misses. Drivers fail to process approximately 50 per cent of the visual information in their driving environment when they are using electronic communication devices. Evidence also concludes that there is no difference between the level of driver distraction associated with hands-free and hand-held cell phone use.
  • Talking to a passenger in the vehicle versus talking to someone through electronic means does not cause the same level of distraction. Reasons for the difference include: the passenger is aware of the driving situation; the passenger can serve as an additional look-out for hazards; the passenger can adjust speech, tone and conversation to the driving environment; and cell phone conversations suppress brain activity necessary for attention to perceptual input.
  • There is no evidence that listening to the radio or a book on tape degrades driving performance.
  • If you want to you can download the whole discussion paper or you can respond to the following discussion questions

    1. Do you think government should pass additional laws restricting the use of electronic devices while driving, or should emphasis be placed on increased public education and awareness and the enforcement of existing laws governing driver distraction (e.g. “Driving Without Due Care and Attention”)?
    2. Which electronic devices should be considered under this framework?
    3. Should hands-free devices be treated the same or differently as hand-held devices?
    4. What would be the appropriate penalties for drivers disobeying such a law (e.g. failure to wear a seatbelt is a fine of $167)?
    5. Should any proposed laws apply to all drivers, or only specific categories of drivers (i.e., new drivers)?
    6. Should exemptions be provided to any class of drivers (i.e., emergency responders, professional drivers, etc.)

    You can submit your responses to the form on line, mail or fax.

    It seems to me that the current arrangement is not doing enough –  as 117 people die each year in B.C., and another 1,400 are hospitalized, from traffic crashes linked to distractions such as the use of cell phones or MP3 players while driving. But distractions are nothing new – and will continue even if new legislation is introduced. I interviewed OPP officers as part of a study I did back when cell phones were rare and the size of a house brick. They had a long list of things people did while driving just before collisions including eating and drinking (of course) smoking – it is the by product that’s the problem – spilling hot coffee in the lap and setting hair or a beard on fire being somewhat more distracting than struggling to open the plastic rap on a gas station sandwich. Applying make up and changing a pair of tights while driving at high speed on the 401 seemed to be pretty frequent in accident reports too.

    “Without due car and attention” it seemed to me at the time should have resulted in charges more often, but traffic cops are often reluctant to go to court. Especially when the offender had self incriminated themselves in their reports of what happened  after the officer arrived on the scene. It is that old problem of the officer not actually observing the behaviour.

    I also think that ICBC should take a stand on this kind of claim and take contributory negligence into account. Especially when the other driver does not even put the phone down when you are trying to get their insurance details from them!

    I hope that you will take the time to let  Kash know your thoughts – and I will stop trying to tell you how you should answer!

    Written by Stephen Rees

    July 1, 2009 at 10:30 am

    Posted in Road safety

    Tagged with ,