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The Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC), along with police departments across the province, are cracking down on distracted drivers with their new 2017 spring Distracted Driving Campaign. Given the current statistics related to distracted driving, all drivers should think twice before multitasking behind-the-wheel.

Any activity that may impact a driver’s ability to focus on the road constitutes as a distraction, and it’s a given that when you’re distracted, your reaction time becomes significantly slower.

Consider this: according to the Canadian Automobile Association, drivers engaged in distractions are more likely to be in a crash or near-collision event compared to non-distracted drivers.

Everyone knows about the dangers of texting and driving, but activities like changing music, talking on the phone or programming a GPS also fall under the umbrella of distracted driving.

Drivers applying makeup or attending to personal grooming are three times more likely to be in collision or near-collision events, the association reports. For drivers talking on the phone, that percentage goes up to four to five times more likely.  Reaching for moving or falling objects increases the likelihood nine times and for texting and driving, the likelihood of a collision or near-collision events rises to a whopping 23 times more likely.

Police statistics from 2010 to 2014 show that about a quarter of all car crash fatalities in the province were related to distracted driving, averaging to 81 deaths per year. This makes distracted driving the second-leading cause of motor vehicle fatalities in British Columbia with speeding being first (94 average fatalities) and impaired driving being the third (78 average fatalities).

According to an Ipsos Reid survey on distracted driving published in 2015, approximately one out of every five B.C. drivers surveyed said they had recently texted or made a phone call using a mobile device while driving.

Using hand-held devices while driving has been banned in British Columbia since 2010 and can result in hefty penalties and fines. This rule is not limited to just texting and talking on the phone, it also applies to checking voice mail, programming a GPS or looking up contact information.

Drivers in the Graduated Licensing Program Class, (drivers who have either a Learner’s or Novice driver permit), are prohibited from using any electronic devices while behind the wheel, including navigation devices and hands-free units.

Distracted drivers are everywhere – they can be your family, your friends, your co-workers, and acknowledging the dangers associated with distracted driving and raising awareness is the first step in combatting this problem.

Whether in our personal or professional lives, we as North Americans feel the need to constantly be in communication with each other, but driving should be one of those moments where you try to unplug and focus on the task at hand.

No call or text is worth risking your life or the lives of others. Leave your phone alone when you’re behind the wheel and allow calls to go to voicemail. Alternatively, you could assign a designated texter to respond to messages or pull over to receive a call.  Many auto manufacturers have also been designing new hands-free and voice-controlled technology to help keep drivers focused on the road.

For more information about the newest hands-free accessories and technology in the auto industry, visit the Vancouver International Auto Show running from March 28 to April 2 at the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Blair Qualey is President and CEO of the New Car Dealers Association of BC. You can email him at [email protected].