Distracting statistics

Distracted driving statistics - what to believe

I received an interesting fact sheet from the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF) last week. It looks at distracted driving related fatal collisions in Canada from 2000 to 2015.

In some Canadian provinces, this type of fatality has surpassed the total caused by alcohol-impaired driving. However, that's not the part of the document that made me pause.

Distracted driving to many means the manual use of a cellphone while operating a motor vehicle.

In reality, distractions include being engaged with entertainment or communication devices, engaging with passengers in the vehicle, or eating, smoking or personal grooming while driving, among other examples.

Doing anything that takes the driver's attention from the driving task could be considered as distracting.

This caveat in the preface to the report was what really captured my attention:

  • It should also be noted that in some collision report forms, investigating officers may code the driver condition as ‘distracted, inattentive,’ meaning there was a general lack of attention exhibited by the driver but there was no specific source of distraction identified.

To me, distracted and inattentive are two different things. Lumping them both together does not paint a true picture of the problem.

Collision data gathering can be a complicated task. In order to be reliable, it must be done promptly, carefully and thoroughly by investigators who gather as much data as possible, considered for accuracy and then reported in a consistent manner.

That was on the minds of the people who produced the TIRF report:

  • Fatality data from British Columbia from 2011 to 2015 were not available at the time that this fact sheet was prepared. As a result, Canadian data presented have been re-calculated to exclude this jurisdiction and make equitable comparisons.

This politely worded statement could mean many things. TIRF did not give adequate time between the request for data and the writing of the report.

It takes more than three years for B.C. bean counters to determine a result. B.C. refused to share the data with TIRF.

Worst of all, maybe B.C. really has no idea what that data is.

Our government chose to discontinue the requirement to report a collision to the police in July of 2008. Currently, ICBC claims personnel are the only ones in a position to gather the majority of collision data.

If we can't share data with TIRF, can we be sure that what we are being told about the impact of distracted driving is true?

No doubt it is taking place as the police issued about 43,000 tickets for using electronic devices while driving last year and we know that the consequences of doing so can be terrible, but how many of the 960 collisions that happen each day in B.C. can be blamed on driver distraction?

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/distracted-driving/distracted-driving-statistics-what-believe


Driving at night in the rain

I am generally not a person who likes the rain, but as I sit with my coffee in hand looking out the window this morning. I'm happy to see it.

No doubt, so is the vegetation that depends on it.

Not so for drivers though, social media has been full of well meant advice to slow down due to the potential of slippery roads.

It struck me this morning that no one has thought to comment about driving in the rain at night.

Here on Vancouver Island, it rains all winter. Many nights, I found myself returning from Port Alberni to Parksville at the end of another patrol of Highway 4.

The road around Cameron Lake is winding and, to me, it was like trying to drive inside a sack of wet coal. Visual cues necessary to locate my vehicle on the pavement were either missing or difficult to see.

Oncoming traffic didn't seem to be affected by the reduction in the ability to see though. It was not uncommon to find drivers exceeding the speed limit although not by quite as much as they would on a dry, sunny day.

Yes, rain on pavement does reduce the available traction. It also fills in the rough surface and tends to reflect your (and everyone else's) headlights forward.

Without light reflected back from the pavement you cannot see it as well. In addition, the extra light from oncoming vehicles creates unwanted glare, further reducing your ability to see.

The raindrops also function as a lens, scattering headlight illumination or even throwing it right back into your face. Glare is increased.

Wet surfaces distort light. This makes your windshield harder to see through and your headlights less effective.

When we can't see well, we tend to focus on the road directly in front of us. This means peripheral vision is reduced, possibly to the point of not seeing pedestrians at the roadside or vehicles approaching from the left or right at an intersection.

So, what should we do when driving at night in the rain? The simple and obvious answer is to slow down and increase your following distance.

In addition, the following will help:

  • Keep your windows (inside and outside) and headlights clean
  • Do not use high beams
  • Replace wipers when they no longer clean the windshield completely
  • Use a hydrophobic windshield treatment
  • Don't use cruise control
  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel
  • Turn all your lights on
  • Remember to keep your eyes moving, get the big picture

Water on the road is waiting to grab your tires and send you off in new directions.

Beware of water contained in channelized pavement, pools of standing water and water running across your lane, especially at an angle. These could be virtually impossible to see at night.

You might not give it much thought, but driving at night in the rain can be a real challenge.

Be prepared!

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/miscellaneous/driving-night-rain

School-zone lessons

Seven years ago, I wrote about a safe trip to school, commenting on my experience that a significant part of the safety problem was caused by teachers and parents.

Their driving behaviour as they showed up to work or dropped off their children sometimes left a lot to be desired.

Did they not realize that they were creating their own problem?

At that time, the only solution that I had to offer was the walking school bus — where parents take turns walking the neighbourhood children to school.

Everyone benefits from the exercise, the children are safer and traffic congestion at the school is reduced.

We know that there's a problem, but how do we deal with it?

The City of Toronto is trying an Active and Safe Routes to School pilot project as a part of their Vision Zero Road Safety Plan.

This will see areas around schools being designated as Community Safety Zones.

These zones will have painted crosswalks, active speed reader signs. increased enforcement and higher penalties.

Of the four, the only one that I know for sure results in a measurable effect is the speed reader sign. It's always there and working.

Do the police have the resources to maintain an enforcement level necessary to result in a lasting level of compliance?

Would we accept automated enforcement in school zones?

The current political climate in B.C. seems to indicate that it is possible, but as yet nothing has been implemented.

Vienna, Austria, Bolzano, Italy and Haddington, Scotland have taken a different approach.

They have decided to exclude motor vehicle traffic around primary schools.

Vienna's closure is at the start of the school day, with Bolzano and Haddington at the beginning, lunch hour and end of the day.

These are pilot projects for Vienna and Haddington, but Bolzano has had this program in place for 21 years. Bolzano found that traffic jams are reduced and safety has increased, reducing the collision rate by half, resulting in about 45 per cent of students walking to school.

Traffic calming measures lie somewhere in between. Here are some examples from the Netherlands.

The use of signs, coloured pavement, marked crosswalks and chicanes are markedly different from what is found here in B.C.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/schools-and-playgrounds/different-approach-school-zone-safety


Over in less than a minute

There's been a major crash that has injured or killed someone on one of our highways.

The highway has been closed and everyone is being inconvenienced. The words killer highway or something similar has been mentioned and there are calls for the government to do something to make the highway safer.

Chances are, if you weren't involved in the resulting lineup, you found out about these incidents on either social media or via television news. Today, even on-line newspaper stories are often only two paragraphs long and provide just the barest of detail.

It's all over in less than a minute, and what have you really learned? Certainly not enough to make an informed decision on the situation or to advocate effectively for a solution.

If you do decide to get involved and try to make a difference, how do you find the necessary information to base an intelligent campaign on?

The bulk of the details are likely in the possession of the police and should eventually become public knowledge.

Please note my use of the word eventually. Some information can be released immediately, but many of the details may be held back until the conclusion of all legal proceedings.

Legal proceedings often take significant periods of time to be completed.

ICBC's crash maps of the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Southern Interior and North Central areas of B.C. tell you where collisions occur, but not why.

Collision Statistics are available as well but only paint a picture in very broad strokes.

The Province of B.C. maintains a Collision Information System, but it is not available to the public. You are directed to make all requests for crash data to ICBC.

The Coroner's Service does publish verdicts from inquests, but the most recent example of a Verdict at Inquest is from a fatal collision in Invermere that occurred in 2011 and was heard in 2013.

A search for data at the municipal level revealed minimal information from the City of Vancouver.

All levels of government often have traffic safety committees.

Some present a very public face, such as the CRD Traffic Safety Committee.

Some, like the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police and the BC Association of Chiefs of Police announce themselves, but provide little more.

Others prefer to remain secret. They do not accept input from the public, do not allow a public presence at meetings and do not publish reports. Check with your local government to find out more (hopefully).

Are you interested in digging for more?

Public access to information directions are available for the RCMP, as well as the provincial and municipal levels. Be aware that unless this information is about you, there may be a fee involved.

Story URL: https://www.drivesmartbc.ca/collisions/its-all-over-less-minute

More Behind the Wheel articles

About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

To comment, please email

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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