Roger Chaffin, the chief with the Calgary Police Service, issued a #CrotchesKill challenge on Facebook earlier today, calling on the mayor of Calgary, Naheed Nenshi, and Steve Dongworth, the fire chief, as well as the service’s social media followers to write their names on a piece of paper, take a selfie while holding it, post it to social media with the #CrotchesKill hashtag, and then challenge two friends to do the same thing.
Nenshi and Dongworth quickly took up the challenge and were joined by musician Jann Arden as well as numerous other Canadians.
Since 2011, the Province of Alberta reports more than 87,633 distracted driving convictions and that 2015 saw the highest number of people texting, and otherwise not paying attention while driving, on record. On January 1, Alberta updated its distracted driving legislation, which includes a $287 fine, to include three demerit points. Ninety-seven percent of tickets issued for distracted driving in the province are reported to involve the use of smartphones and other electronic devices, according to Safe Roads.
Alberta reports that young males account for the majority of convictions, said to have amounted to two-thirds in 2014-15. People in the 22-34-year-old age group are cited as being most likely to be found texting and driving.
The advent of electronic devices is seen as creating on overload on drivers’ senses. While ingenious and useful, devices like GPS, satellite radios, smartphones, and even normal car radios can each distract drivers from focusing on the road ahead. Further, adjusting devices means removing ones’ hands from the steering wheel and sacrificing some amount of control.
“Distracted driving literally impairs your driving ability. Multi-tasking while driving could prove to be a fatal error in judgment.”
It is noted that a vehicle traveling 100 kilometers per hour can travel the length of a football field in about 5 seconds — about the time it takes to send a short text — more than enough time for conditions on the road ahead to change.
RCMP Corporal Chris Little with Strathcona Traffic Services in Strathcona County, Alberta, recently described what he sees as an uptick in distracted driving to Maclean’s.
“A call came in that a vehicle was driving erratically,” Little was quoted. “When I pulled her over, her clothing was around her knees and she was flushed. You get the picture.”
The RCMP officer also described finding people reading novels while driving, eating meals with knives and forks, as well as eating bowls of cereal.
It has also been noted by the Canadian Automobile Association that children, especially infants, can increase drivers’ level of distraction, particularly if traveling alone.
Across North America, distracted driving is thought to be responsible for 4 million collisions each year. In September, the CBC reported that 41 people had died in Ontario in accidents involving distracted driving up until that point in 2015, a year-over-year increase of 20 percent.
In Ontario, those convicted under distracted driving legislation face a penalty of $490 and three demerit points. Novice drivers who are found texting and driving while still under graduated licensing may face 30-day suspensions. Alberta specifically instructs new drivers not to use cell phones or other electronic devices while driving.
“We certainly know that increased fines will hopefully change driver behaviour. But the primary motivation for someone to keep that phone down is for their own safety.” Ontario Provincial Police Sergeant Kerry Schmidt was quoted with regard to what he sees as a disturbing trend that is resulting in fatalities. “We want everyone to get home to their loved ones at the end of their drive.”
Some on social media have gone so far as to suggest that drivers leave their phones in the back seat or shut them off entirely.
[Photo by Bruno Vincent/Getty Images]