Canada Road Safety Week: 10 Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving

By Lesley Green
Young man looking at phone while sitting in driver's seat of his car.

The annual road safety campaign kicks off on May 15 and runs through until May 21, 2018.

When the May long weekend finally rolls around, it’s time to fire up the barbecue and say hello to warm weather; but spring’s official welcome party has a dark side too—it is often fraught with news of heavy traffic, accidents and dangerous driving. The fact that Canada Road Safety Week kicks off the week prior to the long weekend is no coincidence.

Canada Road Safety Week runs from May 15 to May 21 this year, and is part of a national campaign to make Canada’s roads the safest in the world. Across the country, police will be out in force targeting high-risk driving behaviours, including distracted driving.

Distracted driving laws across Canada

While safety is the paramount incentive to not drive distracted, there are fines, demerit points and auto insurance implications to consider as well. A distracted driving ticket, for example, will affect your insurance rates for no less than three years, and that’s not including the fine for the ticket itself. Distracted driving laws in Canada vary by province, and the following chart outlines the starting penalties for a first offence:

Province/Territory Starting Penalties British Columbia $543 fine and 4 demerit points Alberta $287 fine and 3 demerit points Saskatchewan $280 fine and 4 demerit points Manitoba $672 fine, a five level shift down the Driver Safety Rating Scale and a three-day licence suspension Ontario Fine up to $1000, 3 demerit points and three-day licence suspension upon conviction Quebec $300 to $600 fine and 5 demerit points New Brunswick $172.50 fine and 3 demerit points Nova Scotia $233.95 fine and 4 demerit points Prince Edward Island $575 to $1,275 fine and 5 demerit points Newfoundland & Labrador $300 fine and 4 demerit points Northwest Territories $322 fine and 3 demerit points Yukon Territory $500 fine and 3 demerit points Nunavut Nothing is currently in place, however, this will change December, 2018.

10 tips to avoid distracted driving

Driving requires your full attention, and heeding the following tips will help you focus on the task at hand, and avoid a potential ticket:

  1. Plan your route in advance so you have a firm handle on where you’re going. If you’ll be using a GPS, program it before you leave and turn on the feature so it calls out the instructions so you don’t have to glance at the screen while driving.
  2. Do your personal grooming at home; you shouldn’t be shaving, combing your hair, or applying makeup in the car as you drive.
  3. As you prepare to leave the house, record a new voicemail greeting that tells callers that you’re driving and will return their call when you’ve arrived at your destination.
  4. Before entering your car, turn off your phone or switch it to silent mode so that you can’t hear the calls or texts coming in. Then, place your phone in an out of reach place, to avoid temptation.
  5. If you’re able to operate your phone hands-free (e.g. with Bluetooth), keep your conversations simple. Avoid intense or emotional conversations that take your mind away from what’s happening on the road.
  6. Make sure your purse or bags are closed and placed in a spot where they won’t fall over should you need to brake suddenly. Consider placing your items in the trunk, or on the floor in the back.
  7. If travelling with pets, make sure they’re properly secured in the car. Your pet should never be free to roam about or sit on your lap. There are harnesses, crates and carriers on the market that will ensure your pet is safe while you drive.
  8. Get comfortable. Adjust your seat, mirrors, climate control settings and radio before you drive so you don’t need to touch them en route.
  9. Don’t eat and drive. Rummaging through takeout bags and opening the lid on your double-double is distracting and means that both hands aren’t on the wheel and your eyes are likely not on the road. If you must eat in the car, park it first.
  10. Don’t rubberneck if there’s an incident on the road. Resist the urge to look when passing a collision; not only does rubbernecking slow traffic further but it could also result in you causing another collision.

Follow the rules of the road

During Canada Road Safety Week, you can probably count on a heavy police presence on the roads. Follow the speed limit, signal your lane changes, buckle up, put the phone away and don’t drive impaired, because it’s more than just keeping your car insurance rates low, it’s about arriving at your destination safely.