Driving While Intexticated Distracted driving on Prince EDward Island

Whether you drive or not, distracted driving directly impacts you and your family.

Pack your bags, you're going on a guilt trip! Did you check your phone this morning while driving to your destination today? It only takes a split second to change your life and the lives of others forever. Imagine how awful and angry you would feel if one of your family members were seriously injured or even killed by a distracted driver.

Our mission is to make Island roads the safest they can possibly be, and you can do your part by leaving the phone alone. Cell phone distraction rates are alarmingly high. We hope with a little information, you'll make the right decision when you're on the road.

The Problem

The numbers illustrating the dangers of cell phone use while driving are downright startling. "In fact, at any given time throughout the day, approximately 660,000 drivers are attempting to use their phones while behind the wheel of an automobile. Smartphones have made it easy for us to stay connected at all times" (Distracted Driving). But that can pose serious safety risks if someone decides to check his or her text messages, emails, phone calls, or any other mobile applications while driving.

Most of us have found ourselves in a vehicle where the driver was so involved with a task that had nothing to do with the road, that we felt uncomfortable, and maybe even a little fearful. Those feelings are completely justified since a distracted driver is a dangerous one.

Distracted driving is a diversion of a driver’s attention while, you guessed it, driving! In other words, anytime an object, person, task, or event that is not related to driving takes the driver’s attention away from the road, they are driving distractedly.

Distractions come in many forms. The three main types are: cognitive (mind not on driving), visual (eyes not on the road), and manual (hands not on the steering wheel). The most dangerous distraction; however, is cell phone use, which is coincidentally a combination of all three forms of distractions. The risks of texting and driving are obvious: the mind is on the message, the eyes are on the screen, and the hands are busy making sure we use the right emoji– driving has now taken a back seat.

Distracted drivers are not only putting their own life, but fellow road users lives at risk by not paying attention while behind the wheel. The Insurance Bureau of Canada said in a recent report: “Nearly 3 out of 4 Canadian drivers admit to driving distractedly”(Road Safety Strategy, 2015). The study goes on to say that you are 24 times more likely to be involved in an accident when you are texting and driving (YouTube, 2013).

"Nearly 3 out of 4 Canadian drivers admit to driving while distracted"

Distractions take a motorist’s attention off driving, which can make a driver miss critical events, objects, and cues or abandon control of a vehicle, all potentially leading to a crash. Distracted drivers commit a wide variety of errors; from control sloppiness (wandering/weaving, irregular speed) to loss of situational awareness (following too close, sign/signal disobedience). These errors increase the likelihood of being involved in or causing accidents.

Five seconds is the minimal amount of time your attention is taken away from the road when you're texting and driving. "If you’re traveling at [80 kilometres] per hour, this equals driving the length of football field without looking at the road" (Texting and Driving Safety, 2015). Okay, so now that you have a broad sense of drivers, who else is at risk to being affect by this issue? Great question! The answer is everyone else— from cyclists to pedestrians, everyone should be concerned about this issue.

Are you guilty? Everyone makes mistakes but it only takes one second to change the future forever. Statistically speaking; however, female drivers under the age of 25 are typically the one committing this crime (Road Safety Strategy, 2015). Other culprits include: people who drive trucks and those who don’t have any passengers in the vehicle. Although these are the people typically guilty for participating in texting and driving, it’s important to remember: anyone who drives distractedly is at fault! A whopping 77% of young adults are very or somewhat confident that they can safely text and drive, while 55% of young adult drivers claim it’s easy to text while they drive. Here’s the problem: teens who text while driving spend approximately 10% of their driving time outside of their lane (Texting and Driving Safety, 2015).

At this point you might be thinking “okay so now I understand the risks and who is involved, what’s really at stake”? Well, there are a number of things that are at jeopardy when driving distractedly. First and foremost is life or death. Although it seems grim, it’s really as black and white as it seems. Why gamble your life or the lives of others just to ensure your friend receives that smiley face emoji approximately 37 second after they texted you? Physical objects at risk include: vehicles, license, and of course money. A bump in insurance or car bodies aren’t going to pay for themselves you know. Finally, in a world where people’s images and egos are so important to them, this may hit home to many; your reputation is also on the line. Who wants to be pegged for being the horrible, dangerous driver? In a society where we are becoming increasingly attached to our mobile devices, texting and driving is a very prevalent and deadly issue on Island roads.

The Causes

There are many things that can cause a driver to be distracted while driving. These factors could be both internal and external. Internal factors would include those caused by the driver themselves or other passengers in the vehicle. They could be use of technology, eating or drinking while driving, engaging in stimulating conversation, total ignorance, back seat drivers, wondering thoughts, and other factors as well. As for the external factors people can be distracted by other drivers, pedestrians, road signs, basically something eye catching that could grab the driver’s attention and focus away from the road or what is going on around the moving vehicle. Any action that diverts a driver from focusing on the road or having their hands on the wheel and distracts their mind from driving can be considered a cause of distracted driving.

How do these factors affect motorists?

Technology: The most common cause of distracted driving when it comes to technology is cell phone use. People making calls while behind the wheel or texting or even using social media applications is a serious issue. "The use of technology is responsible for 12% of distracted driving accidents" (safestart, 2016). Statistics state that drivers who talk on the phone while driving even with headsets or are six times more likely to be involved in an accident while drivers who text while driving are twenty-four times more accident prone (CITATION).

Ignorance: Another cause of distracted driving is ignorance on the part of the driver. Some drivers don’t realize the dangers of driving distractedly. Some people also think they are great drivers and try to multitask while driving but it has been proven that the brain can not pay full attention to more than one task at the same time. If you’re driving and engaging in something else your attention on the road will be greatly reduced and this leaves room for driving accidents.

Back seat drivers: Back seat drivers can also be a huge distraction to drivers. People talking in the back seat, constantly making noises or constituting a nuisance, telling the driver which roads to go through can easily take their mind of what is happening in the moment and in that one second of distraction the driver can rear end another motorist or crash their car. This single moment would change their lives and whoever is involved costing them a lot of money and possibly physical and mental health issues.

Wandering mind: When people’s minds are distracted, even though it looks like they are paying attention to the road, their minds are not in the moment and it could constitute an accident. Wandering thoughts are responsible for 62% of distracted driving accidents. If you’re driving or in a car with someone driving it is important you try as much as possible to not let your mind wander, because as you start thinking of other things your mind will only drift further and further from driving and although you are seeing what is going on you are only physically present and are almost basically acting on instinct. In this state the littlest mistake by the driver or other motorists could result in an accident.

Stimulating conversation: Engaging in conversation with a passenger is another way a person could get distracted while driving. If a driver is at the wheel in traffic and starts talking to a passenger about something he or she cares about or is passionate about this could take the driver’s attention away from the road and furthermore put his life, the life of the passenger and the life of any other nearby road user in peril. Talking to a driver distracts not only their mind from the road but could also distract the visually if they decide to turn and look at the passenger.

Eating and drinking: Eating food or drinking could easily distract a driver. For one both hands are not on the wheel, the driver is thinking about the food or drink and how he is going to take the next bite or sip, hence, their attention is divided. Things could go wrong very quickly in this situation. For example, a passenger is in a vehicle and they have a cup of coffee. They keep driving and hit a speed bump or stop abruptly. If the coffee cup is not well secured it could spill in different directions. If the coffee spills on the driver it burns them and this whole incident could lead to an accident.

External Factors: It is easy to grab the attention of people in these modern times. There is a lot of potential for distractions on the road. For example, road signs, the actions of other drivers, cyclists, even pedestrians doing something as simple as walking their pets could be a distraction. Unfortunately, there is very little a driver can do to avoid seeing these things but, the best thing is to see it and try not to think about it because that could lead to you getting lost in thought and can eventually cause an accident.

The Solution

As an individual who has personally had to suffer the consequences of distracted driving, I know that it only takes a single moment to change your life considerably. Although I was not texting and driving, the consequences of my absent mindedness cost roughly $2000 in repairs. I am simply grateful that that was all I had to pay because my accident could have easily cost someone their life.


As a group, we wanted to brainstorm together to try to think of possible solutions and alternatives to distracted driving. The first thing we that came to mind was how we would reach our target audience. The most logical way to do this was to make radio advertisements. Not everyone who listens to the radio is driving, but almost everyone who is driving listens to the radio. We thought that a simple reminder while people are driving may be enough to deter drivers from becoming distracted.

Our second idea was to have some sort of integration with driver education. Statistically, young people are most likely to drive distracted, so if we can break the habit before it develops our roads will be safer. Also, if young drivers do not start driving distracted, when they get older and have kids of their own they will be passing on their good driving habits.

One issue we came across when brainstorming was that many drivers consider themselves to be very skilled. However, when a driver’s attention is away from the road they are no longer driving. To ameliorate this problem, we thought that demonstration events would be an effective strategy. If drivers had the opportunity to attempt to drive while doing a variety of tasks they would likely see how difficult it is to drive distracted.

Our final idea we had was to have public talks for young people. We remembered when we were in high school and there would be an assembly where a paramedic or some sort of first responder would come in and show shocking videos to illustrate the dangers of drunk driving. We thought this strategy would readily translate to distracted driving. If we could get young people to realize the possibly life changing implications of distracted driving, we could likely make this problem a thing of the past.

What has been done?

After brainstorming, we looked to see what kind of work had already been done. As it turns out, local RCMP held a demonstration day last spring to highlight the dangers of distracted driving. Participants would drive a course in a go-kart and then drive through it again while doing various distracting activities. Reception of this event was generally positive, some saying that they did not realize how heavily multitasking affected the quality of their driving skills.

We also came across several media campaigns. The inspiration for these concern groups was due to some sort of personal connection. The strange thing about distracted driving is that although it is an incredibly common and widespread phenomenon, people only truly take it seriously once they have been personally affected. Whether this interest comes from being personally injured, having a loved one injured, or from injuring someone else, it is only after a serious incident that people take notice. The purpose of these media campaigns are very similar to drunk driving campaigns. One of the most popular strategies is to shock the audience out of complacency. People respond to emotion, and media that emphasizes this is highly effective.

Finally, we found a lot of advertising by insurance companies. Although it may be self-interested, insurance companies have resulted in some good by funding advertisement that highlights the dangers of distracted driving. Additionally, a lot of these advertisements are targeted at young people. They are the most likely to drive distracted, but young people are impressionable and generally willing to change their ways if give good reason.

What can we do?

The final issue we wanted to resolve is what we can do as young drivers to attempt to end distracted driving. Luckily for us, distracted driving is an issue that we can all personally work to eliminate. The first is to become an advocate for good driving habits. If we can interpolate as many people as possible into good driving habits, then our roads will be a safer place. Our second proposal is to simply minimize distractions. There are many applications that will send an automated message to any incoming texts or phone calls. If there is nothing to take a driver’s attention away from the road, then they will be less likely to become distracted. Drivers can also pull over to the side of the road if they urgently need to address their mobile phones. In a worst-case scenario, pulling over will put you a minute behind schedule. Last but not least, we propose that drivers lead by example. This strategy is especially effective when an individual has a younger sibling who is just getting their license. If siblings, friends, and family see you practicing good driving etiquette, they are apt to emulate your example.

To wrap up, it is important to reiterate that distracted driving affects all of us, whether we are personally doing it or those around us in traffic are doing it. Unfortunately, the seriousness of distracted driving tends to only be truly felt by those personally affected by it. We hope that people can become proactive and realize the severity of this habit before becoming seriously affected by it. Our final takeaway is to simply remember that when you are behind the wheel of a two thousand pound killing machine that there is no undo.

A Report by Yomi Oni, Jillian Craig, and Patrick Cheverie


How to Avoid Texting while Driving. (n.d.). Retrieved November 17, 2016, from http://www.vdriveusa.com/resources/how-to-avoid-texting-while-driving.php

Distracted Driving. (n.d.). Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://www.brainonboard.ca/human_factors/distracted_driving.php

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Hagen, D. (2015). Road Safety Strategy 2015: Toward Zero Tolerance. Retrieved November 15, 2016, from http://crss2015.ccmta.ca/_files/PEI road safety strategy 2015.pdf

Top 10 Causes of Distracted Driving-and What They All Have in Common. (2016). Retrieved December 03, 2016, from https://safestart.com/news/top-10-causes-distracted-driving-and-what-they-all-have-common

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Bingham, C. R., Zakrajsek, J. S., Almani, F., Shope, J. T., & Sayer, T. B. (2015). Do as I say, not as I do: Distracted driving behavior of teens and their parents. Journal of Safety Research, 55, 21-29. doi:10.1016/j.jsr.2015.07.007

(2013). Retrieved November 20, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7eFH3y_SIO0

Distracted Driving. (2016). Retrieved November 16, 2016, from http://www.ibc.ca/qc/auto/risk-management/distracted-driving


Created with images by _Jonas_ - "Road to Aspen" • Pixel-mixer - "crash test collision 60 km h" • Lord Jim - "April10 033" • xyzoptics9 - "Don't Text & Drive" • frankieleon - "texting and driving" • ErikaWittlieb - "superman superhero hero"

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