With distracted driving becoming the leading cause of motor vehicle collisions leading to injury and death in Ontario, Ottawa Police Services are stepping up their campaign by taking education into schools. There is overwhelming evidence of the elevated risks associated with driving while distracted, penalties continue to rise, including in Ontario, (not to mention exponentially increasing insurance premiums for repeat offenders) and yet this socially irresponsible behaviour continues to cause collisions resulting in injuries and deaths.
Much like the early days of recycling programs and ongoing efforts to thwart impaired driving, education and social pressure needs to supplement penalties if we’re to see real change. In short, attentive driving needs to become the expected norm, and distracted driving needs to become socially unacceptable.
Ottawa Police Service has an innovative new program just launched with the partnership of the Ottawa region’s multiple school boards. Education on the risks of distracted driving (and hopefully, the benefits of attentive driving) has been introduced in the “Leave the Phone Alone” program to both elementary and high school students.
The program aims to instill norms about social responsibility before kids become old enough to become drivers, and to give kids the means to help manage their parents’ behaviour (which worked quite well with recycling campaigns).
“They are society’s future drivers and texters,” [East Traffic Sgt.] Hull said. “We need to educate kids about the dangers of distracted driving before they even get their licences. More than that, we want our youth to be the agents of change by reminding their parents and friends to leave the phone alone while driving.”
Studies inform us that:
- 43 per cent of drivers in Grade 12 admit to texting behind the wheel (2013 Ontario Student Drug and Health Survey)
- 37 per cent of teens report being a passenger in a car with a parent who was talking on a cellphone (2013 Ontario Student Drug and Health Survey)
- 23 per cent reported being a passenger in a car with a parent who was texting while driving (2013 Ontario Student Drug and Health Survey)
- 40 per cent of collisions in Ottawa in 2013 involved distracted driving. (City of Ottawa, 2014)
With those stats in mind, let’s hope the program gains traction quickly, is picked up by other jurisdictions, and makes a real difference.
For the Ottawa Citizen article, see here.
For more information on the program, see here.
For the education kits, see here.