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Distractions on the Road: Things to Know Before You Drive

By Carly Peters

From selecting your music playlist to setting a navigation app, there are plenty of distractions. A recent AMA poll revealed 79 percent of drivers have done something on the road that’s considered distracting or dangerous. What may seem like minor distractions are actually causing big problems on Canadian roads.


Alberta motorists who drive distracted are eight times likelier to experience a crash or near-crash event. But there’s an even more sobering statistic. Distracted driving contributes to 21 percent of fatal collisions every year, up from 16 percent just a decade ago. In some parts of Canada, distracted driving fatalities have actually surpassed those caused by impaired driving.

Unsurprisingly, technology remains a top distraction for drivers. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the U.S., sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds. At 90 km/h, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

AMA research also shows 47 percent of Albertans admit to typing or using the voice-memo feature to send a text message while driving.


But it’s not just your personal devices competing for your attention. The expansion of in-vehicle technology, from sound systems to navigation maps, has made driving more like multitasking—which is detrimental to road safety.

“Today’s vehicles are incredibly feature rich,” says Jeff Kasbrick, AMA’s vice-president of advocacy and operations “We can scroll through a music app, adjust the interior lights and set our seat temperature. Individually, these are great. Collectively, they distract us from our single most important job behind the wheel: driving safely.”

Research shows even if your eyes are on the road—with two hands on the wheel—if your mind is taken off the task of driving, you’re distracted. Which means you might not see someone run onto the road or a car turning into your lane.

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To help reduce cognitive clutter, AMA’s latest campaign aims to remind motorists that technology assists, and does not replace, the driver. Motorists should always avoid those distractions they can control.

There is good news though. “Distracted driving is entirely preventable,” Kasbrick notes. Set your playlist and adjust your seat, mirrors and other vehicle settings prior to putting the vehicle in gear.

“In short, do it all before you drive so you can keep your eyes and mind on the road.”