Survey suggests drivers more alert and roads safer thanks to distracted driving law

Study shows drivers believe anti-texting law works.

January 26, 2011
by Canadian Automotive Review staff

BURNABY, BC: After a year of not being able to talk on a hand-held phone or text while driving, many BC drivers say they’re more attentive behind the wheel and that the province’s roads seem safer.

In a BC Automobile Association (BCAA) online survey of 2,139 drivers, 57 percent said they think our roads are safer as a result of the law restricting the use of mobile electronics while driving. In addition, 34 percent said they are paying more attention to the way they drive because of the law.

As for how, and how many, drivers continue to talk on cell phones while driving, 14 percent of those surveyed talk “frequently” (more than once a week) using a hands-free device. Only three percent admitted to talking frequently using a hand-held phone, but almost 13 percent said they continue to talk “occasionally” on a hand-held phone.

On the other hand, 80 percent of those surveyed said they frequently observe other drivers talking on hand-held phones. And what do they do when they see another driver with a phone to his/her ear?  Over half—55 percent—say they give a dirty look or gesture to the driver to get off the phone. Three percent roll down the window and say something to the other driver, while two percent write down their license plate number and give it to the police.

“While BCAA doesn’t recommend engaging with other drivers over their cell phone and texting habits, the responses to this survey suggest drivers are frustrated by those who continue to disobey the law,” said Trace Acres, BCAA’s director of corporate communications and public affairs. “Although awareness of, and compliance with, the law appears to be high, it seems we still have a ways to go to make everyone understand the dangers of driving while distracted.”

Ad campaigns aimed at educating drivers about the dangers of distractions are, according to the survey, less effective today that they were six months ago. Today, 47 percent of survey respondents think the provincial government is effectively informing and educating drivers about the dangers of talking on a hand-held phone, compared to 54 percent of those surveyed six months ago. Similarly, 46 percent think a good job is being done to warn drivers about the dangers of texting while driving, compared to 56 percent who said so six months ago.

Enforcement is something else that drivers who took this survey say has slipped. Six months ago, 26 percent of the survey respondents felt you had a good chance of being caught and ticketed for texting or talking on a hand-held phone. Today, that number is just 15 percent.

Other survey highlights:
Four percent of drivers surveyed continue to read and send text messages “frequently” (more than once a week) while driving, and seven percent said they text “occasionally.” The large majority of drivers surveyed – 89 percent – said they do not text while driving.
Nearly all survey respondents identified reading (99 percent) and texting (98 percent) as dangerous driving distractions. Talking on a hand-held phone was declared dangerous by 88 percent of those surveyed, while a lesser, but still significant number—39 percent—said talking on a hands-free phone is also dangerous.

Other activities that most survey respondents said are dangerous include grooming, such as shaving or applying make-up (92 percent), and holding a pet in your lap (85 percent).

Survey participants said they see more drivers talking on a hand-held phone (80 percent frequently) than they see drivers eating and drinking (68 percent frequently).