Ditching dangerous distractions (December 01, 2001)

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OTTAWA, Ont. — The Canadian Safety Council kicks off its National Safe Driving Week today with intentions to deter drivers from engaging in dangerous multi-tasking while driving.

The Council has launched a new driver awareness program, called Driven to Distraction, by sending out literature and a 10-minute CD-ROM video about safer driving habits to employers, driving instructors, safety associations, insurers, police departments and schools.

An estimated 20 to 30 per cent of all serious or fatal crashes are caused by driver distraction, in one form or another. The most common types of distractions include things outside the vehicle, adjusting the radio or CD player, other occupants, moving objects in the vehicle, adjusting vehicle controls, eating or drinking and using or dialing a cellular phone. According to a recent study put forth by the Steel Alliance and the Canadian Safety Council, 75 per cent of drivers surveyed said they carry out personal and work-related tasks while driving.

The program’s initiatives include helping drivers to overcome the daily distractions and focus on their task at hand: Driving. The Canadian Safety Council says that driving is one of the most demanding daily responsibilities, but too often people treat it as a secondary task while behind the wheel.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Department of National Defence are among those who will be using the council’s informative package for both internal and public awareness use. The RCMP says that collisions take the lives of almost 3,000 people each year and this campaign will help to educate the public about the dangers of being distracted at the wheel, and enforce the notion of safety being paramount when it comes to vehicle use.

The Council suggests there are ways to become a safer driver and to assist in avoiding distractions. Be sure to be familiar with your vehicle or cellular phone and all of the functions. Use a hands-free option for necessary phone calls, but be sure to avoid emotionally charged conversations. Make sure children are comfortably and properly buckled up.

Pull over to eat or drink to avoid driver distraction and enjoy an opportunity to eat a peaceful meal. Know where you are intending to go and how to get there before you leave to avoid uncertainty and having to consult a map while driving. Drive defensively and be prepared for the unsafe driving habits of others or hazardous conditions.

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