Danger in the drivers seat

We’ve seen the story done in every country, every province and every town; dangerous drivers are a problem everywhere.

Erica Yetman

Whether it be people distracted behind the wheel, or a lack of know-how when it comes to handling a vehicle, everyone has been, or witnessed, a distracted driver. 

According to the Canadian Automobile Association, distracted driving plays a factor in about four million collisions in North America every year.

But the question that remains unanswered is who are the most unsafe drivers on the road?

Statistics from Transport Canada show that in 2014 alone there were 275,033 Canadians involved in car accidents, with over 150,000 obtaining injuries. Almost 20,000 of those injured were young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 years old, with 9,427 of being female.

The driver of this car went off the road on the Trans Canada just outside of St. Johns, NL. There have been 16 traffic related deaths since August. Arthur Green/Kicker

Const. Daniel Morrissey with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary says calls related to traffic, anything from an incident to a collision, are one of the most common calls they receive.

“Patrol officers are responding to traffic complaints and collisions on a daily basis,” said Morrissey.

Janet Kent is the regional director for the Newfoundland and Labrador Young Drivers of Canada. Kent says one of the few things they know about accidents is with the right skills, most of them are predictable and preventable.

“Drivers are not paying attention in any direction in some cases,” said Kent. “How many times do we see people going the opposite direction on a roundabout, or not knowing how to merge onto the highway.”

In a poll done by the CAA, 22 per cent of Canadians admitted to reading or sending text messages while behind the wheel.

Similarly, a poll done by the American Automobile Association showed that 88.4% of Americans between the ages of 19-24 engaged in speeding, running red lights, or texting while driving in the last 30 days.

Jillian Kieley, former winner of Discovery Channel’s Canada’s Worst Driver in season 11says she learned many valuable techniques during her time on the show – from how to drive in winter conditions to handling distracted drivers.

“I’ve learned to always be aware of my surroundings as drivers are sometimes unpredictable and you need to try to be as safe as you can,” said Kieley. “I make sure to always look where I want to go so I’m always a step ahead.”

Steve Marshall, a personal injury lawyer in St. John’s, said on CBC Crosstalk that he’s seen case after case come through his office of people injured by distracted driving.

“Get out of the membership of the it-won’t-happen-to-me club,” said Marshall. “ I sit here everyday going through files of people who didn’t think it would happen to them. It could happen to anyone.”

According to CBC, since August 16 people have died while driving on Newfoundland’s highways.

Police officers on the roads are seeing all types of distracted driving from texting to applying makeup.

According to CAA over 80 per cent of motor vehicle accidents could have been avoided with one more second of reaction time.

“We have seen people reading or using their iPads while driving,” said Morrissey. “Eating while you’re driving – if you’re taking a bite of a granola bar that’s fine – but if you’re having a full-on meal in your car that could constitute dangerous driving.”

There are things some drivers do everyday which they don’t realize could be dangerous driving, says Morrissey. Having your dog on your lap, applying mascara, or even changing your car clock if it takes your attention away from the road could land you in trouble with police or worse.

CAA says checking a text for five seconds while travelling at 90 km/h is equal to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.

“The basic rule of thumb is that when you’re driving … the road ahead of you and your surroundings has to be your priority,” said Morrissey.

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