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From the Comments is designed to highlight interesting and thoughtful contributions from our readers. Some comments have been edited for clarity. Everyone can read the comments but only subscribers will be able to contribute. Thank you to everyone furthering debate across our site.
While it is true that government policies and penalties can offer some disincentives to dangerous behaviours, there is another powerful motivator.
Following the Ontario decision in Hunt v. Sutton Group – when a woman, apparently drunk at an office holiday party, was injured – we all took notice. Office parties toned down, taxi chits were given out and attention was paid to how employees were getting home.
Never mind that the trial judge’s decision finding the employer liable went to the Court of Appeal and was sent back for a new trial. What we remember is that we can be held personally liable if someone we serve drives drunk and hurts themselves or someone else.
Plaintiffs’ lawyers have long known about the risks of impaired driving through cellphone use. Requests for cellphone records following collisions are the norm. In a 2017 case, Austin v. Smith, phone records were held producible just because the defendant driver had a phone in the car, without other evidence of use.
There’s nothing like a lawsuit to remind the community that there are consequences to actions. Your data will find you out.
Barbara Legate Legate & Associates LLP; London, Ont.
When self-driving cars are the norm, then distraction will be a thing of the past. With self-driving cars you can call and text and search until the cows come home, and without any accident or incident.
Douglas Cornish Ottawa
It’s pointed out that Manitoba has Canada’s toughest laws against distracted behaviour. They suspend the offender’s license for a limited period – but a very limited period, a matter of days. Whew, I may not be able to drive for a couple of days, but I can still use my phone any time I like, in class, at work, crossing the street.
Stop this behaviour. Take their phones.
Rick Walker Toronto
It seems to me an easy and effective solution to the problem of cellphone use while driving would be to have a 24-hour seizure of the phone as a penalty, rather like a 24-hour roadside suspension of a vehicle. I guarantee that drivers would pay attention to this penalty.
Lorna Hruby Vancouver
“Todd Litman, chief of the Victoria Transport Policy Institute in B.C.'s capital, suggests that commuters should have better public transit options that allow the use of screen time en route." A rather strange comment. Spend millions of dollars so that some people are not inconvenienced? How about people use common sense instead and stop yacking mindlessly while out in public, but especially when driving? – onceuponatime33
I have never ever seen someone stopped or pulled over by the police for using their cellphones. The problem with Canada is that we have rules and laws and they are not enforced properly by the police. Introduce CCTV on all highways and on major roads like in Britain and fine these transgressors. – TorontoGooner
“Distracted driving is as dangerous a crisis today as impaired driving was decades ago. What are Canadians doing about it?” Some are probably reading this as they drive. – Stephen Saines
If we want to stop individuals from driving and using cellphones, we just need to have the cellphone companies use technology to win the war. Why have cellphone companies not disabled phones if they are moving more than three miles per hour? – 2-Nickels
I’ve found that Android Auto is actually a step in the right direction for this problem. I plug my phone into the car, and Android Auto takes over. I can make and receive calls and texts by voice alone if necessary, and once it’s plugged in, the natural inclination is to leave it alone. Obviously this doesn’t prevent someone from unplugging it to check how many likes they got on the picture of their breakfast they just posted, but it’s a small disinclination to doing that.
Unfortunately, relative to my old car, which has no fancy tech, the big touch screen in the new car is itself distracting. In old cars I can control the radio and the temperature entirely by muscle memory. Touch screens can’t be used that way, so they’re a distraction whether or not you’re using Android Auto or the Apple version. – Liana and Rob
I can only speak for myself, and I know that if I am engaged in any conversation at all, whether it’s someone in the car or someone on the speaker phone, that’s what my focus is centred on – not on what’s going on around me. Therefore, I never touch my phone while driving.
I drive about 700 kilometres a week and see the same lack of awareness in other drivers on their cellphones. They have no idea that they’re missing all kinds of cues, such as advancing on reds.
There’s nothing that can’t wait until you’re parked. And if you get a text or call about something life and death, then you probably want to be parked when you take it anyway. – GWiz2038
Some studies have shown it’s the act of talking on the phone that is distracting, not holding the phone, so using the car’s Bluetooth does nothing to reduce distracted driving. – Leese1
I realize the distractions are all about cellphones, but what about highway sign clutter? I was driving through a small town and counted 14 signs in a distance of about 50 metres. If I was looking for a particular one, how distracted was I? – northerncrank
Increase the deductible in all auto insurance policies to $25,000 for accidents while a cellphone was in use. – Candace248
Using a stick shift is a pretty good deterrent. – RS Laking
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