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Injury Wise
Talking or texting while driving is dangerous and you will be likely found liable if you are in an accident.  (File photo: Wayne Moore - Castanet)
Talking or texting while driving is dangerous and you will be likely found liable if you are in an accident. (File photo: Wayne Moore - Castanet)

Smart phones - dumb drivers

by - Story: 59324


There are many great applications you can download for your cell phone these days but unfortunately, common sense is not one of them. Almost everyday in my travels I see people talking and texting on their phones while driving. The behavior is so common in fact that you might never know that it has been illegal to use a cell phone while driving or operating a motor vehicle, without the assistance of a hands-free device, in BC for over a year now. The only thing that appears to be different since the law has changed is that now sometimes people try to hide the phone while talking or texting.
“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. The big deal is that it is more than just the risk of a $167 fine and some demerit points. Talking or texting while driving is dangerous and you will be likely found liable if you are in an accident.

Imagine yourself driving in a residential neighborhood. It’s day time, it’s quiet and you are driving the speed limit. You are on your way to a friend’s house. Your phone signals that you have a text message, so you pick up the phone to read the text. It’s a short message from your friend that says “how far away are u?” But before you reply or put the phone down, you hear a loud thud. Something has hit the front of your car. You pull over, expecting to see debris or perhaps an animal on the road. But it’s not debris or even an animal. You stop dead in your tracks as you see a bike and a small child, bleeding, lying on the road. He’s barely alive. Later you find out that he suffered a significant brain injury and will never walk again. In the three seconds that you took your attention off the road to check your text message, you missed seeing a 4-year-old boy ride his bike off his driveway and in front of your car. You now have to live with the fact that you paralyzed a child because you couldn’t wait to check your messages. You also have to declare bankruptcy because the third party liability coverage you had on your vehicle was not enough to cover the $5 million damage award the child received for his injuries, cost of care, and income he will never earn.

Do you still want to use your phone while driving? The above scenario is an example of a real accident, only it wasn’t a boy it was a little girl and she died as a result. Studies have shown that drivers who talk or text while driving are up to four times more likely to get into a crash. It is because of these statistics and the fact that many people seem to be addicted to their phones that advocacy groups have arisen, laws have changed and even celebrities have gotten behind the movement to ban the use of cell phones on the road. In January 2010, Oprah Winfrey started the “No Phone Zone” pledge. She declared April 30th a No Phone Zone Day and even has merchandise to support the movement.

So, is the law making a difference? Despite my personal observations a study conducted by ICBC suggests that there has been an improvement in the number of people using cell phones while driving. In 2009, they observed 8000 vehicles at 40 different sites in Victoria. Of the 8000 observed, 350 people were using a cell phone while driving (mean percentage 4.41%). In 2010, 8000 vehicles were observed at the same sites and only 75 people were seen using a cell phone while driving (mean percentage 0.94%). If the study is an accurate representation of use, it clearly supports that the law has made a difference in our driving habits.

Perhaps we are getting smarter with our smart phones, but there are still many of us that could use a friendly reminder to put the phone down. Next time you think you need to answer your phone, text or make a call while driving be sure to think again. Without a hands free device, it’s illegal, it's dangerous and it can …W8.

Important Note: The information contained in this column should not be treated by readers as legal advice and should not be relied on without detailed legal counsel being sought.


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