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Personal Injury - What Is Distracting Driving?

Several insurers now recognize a ‘driving while using a hand-held communication device’ offence as a major conviction in determining insurance rates in Nova Scotia.

Alix Digout –  March 2021

While distracted driving is not a new phenomenon, advancements in technology, cell phones, and social media have made it much more frequent and deadly. Distracted driving risks the lives of drivers, passengers, and by-standers alike.

According to the National Safety Counsel, approximately 36% of all motor vehicle collisions involve phone usage, including hands-free systems. In a 2018 poll conducted by CAA, texting while driving was noted as one of the biggest threats to personal safety while on the road.

Taking your eyes off the road for even a few seconds can lead to disastrous consequences. Before looking down to change the radio station or checking cell phone notifications, you should be mindful a vehicle moving at 100 km/h can travel approximately 90 feet per second.

There are four categories of distracted driving:

1.Visual distractions – taking your eyes off the road;
2. Auditory distractions – removing focus from the sounds of your surroundings and/or the road (horns, sirens, etc.);
3. Cognitive distractions – lacking attention to the roadway, traffic, pedestrians, etc.; and
4. Manual distractions – taking your hands off the steering wheel.

Examples of distracted driving include: texting, programming a GPS, reading maps, watching videos (whether on a cellphone or the vehicle’s infotainment system), eating or drinking, engaging in animated conversations, smoking/vaping, adjusting the radio/music system, grooming, and listening to loud music and/or headphones.

Tips to avoid distracted driving include:

• Turning off cell phone notifications while driving.
• Pulling over safely to answer calls, texts, or care for children/young passengers.
• Programing your GPS and climate controls before traveling.
• Do not eat or drink while driving.
• Do not use headphones or listen to loud music while driving.

As noted above, cellphone usage is a significant cause of motor vehicle collisions. Section 100D(1) of the Nova Scotia Motor Vehicle Act, RSNS 1989 c 293 makes it an offence for a person to use a hand-held cellular telephone or engage in text messaging on any communications device while operating a vehicle on a highway or operating a personal transporter on a roadway or a sidewalk. In January 2020, 88 people were charged by the Nova Scotia RCMP for using a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle. First time offenders are fined $233.95 and 4 demerit points, while subsequent offences result in increased fines ($348.95 for a second offence, $578.95 for additional offences). Of note, several insurers now recognize a ‘driving while using a hand-held communication device’ offence as a major conviction in determining insurance rates in Nova Scotia.

If you have been injured because of a distracted driver, a member of MDW Law’s personal injury team can provide a complimentary consultation to address your questions or concerns.

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