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More people are using their phones while driving, ICBC says

According to police data, distracted driving accounts for one-in-four fatal crashes each year in B.C.
driving distracted shutterstock
Nearly half of respondents said to some extent it's safe to text and drive, but 87 per cent said they'd feel ashamed if other people knew they texted while driving. | Shuttershock

Despite knowing it’s dangerous and feeling ashamed for doing it, more B.C. drivers are using their cell phones behind the wheel, according to a new Ipsos survey.

Of people who responded, 43 per cent of drivers said they used their phone at least one out of every 10 trips, up from 33 per cent in 2019.

That’s despite 73 per cent of respondents saying they think it’s likely they could be caught by police if holding or handling an electronic device while driving.

Distracted driving is as dangerous as ever, accounting for more than one in four fatal crashes and 76 deaths in B.C. each year, according to police data from 2016-2020.

In a statement Tuesday (Aug. 30), ICBC said it’s launching a month-long joint campaign with law enforcement across the province urging drivers to leave their phones alone while driving.

Police say they’re ramping up distracted driving enforcement, and community volunteers are conducting “cell watch” deployments to remind drivers to keep their eyes on the road.

Law enforcement officials are not shy about handing out tickets for distracted driving. On a single day in July, North Vancouver RCMP issued more than $18,000 in distracted driving tickets.

While using electronic devices is one of the most common and riskiest forms of distracted driving – ICBC said it ups your crash risk by five times – any activity that reduces your ability to focus puts yourself and others at risk.

No phone call or text is worth risking the safety of you or other road users, said Lindsay Matthews, ICBC vice-president of public affairs.

“Set a positive example for those around you and take a break from your phone when you're behind the wheel – turn it to silent or 'do not disturb' mode and keep it out of reach and out of sight. We all play a role in creating safer roads for everyone,” she said in the statement.

Any loss of life due to distracted-driving related crashes is unacceptable, said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth. “Drivers must prioritize safety over convenience when driving.”

ICBC and police conduct two distracted driving education and enhanced enforcement campaigns every year.

Other results from the Ipsos survey include: 21 per cent of drivers say it’s highly likely they will access their phone while driving in the next week; 42 per cent of respondents agree to some extent that it’s “perfectly safe” to text while driving; and 87 per cent of people say they would feel ashamed if people knew they texted while driving.

The findings come from this year’s spring wave of the Road Safety Tracking Study/B.C. Driver Study. A total of 1,001 interviews were conducted by Ipsos online between April 1 and April 25, 2022. Overall, 96 per cent of B.C. drivers surveyed own or use a cell phone.

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