What are the main causes of car accidents? While driving under the influence of alcohol is still a major cause, another cause is fast becoming an equal, if not bigger, concern: distracted driving, and especially texting while driving.

The statistics from around the world indicate that the number of accidents caused by using phones while driving is increasing.

In this article, we focus on texting and driving statistics in Canada. We will also cover what the Canadian law says about use of mobile phones and texting while driving.

Texting and Driving Statistics for Canadians

  • The size of fines and length of suspension of license vary between provinces and territories.
  • Canada has some of the safest roads in the world, with 4.58 deaths per 100,000 residents.
  • The number of drivers admitting to using their phones while driving rose by over 100% from 2010 to 2019.
  • 47% of Canadian drivers admit to using mobile phones while driving.
  • Taking your eyes off the road for five seconds at 90 km per hour is the same as driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.
  • The risk of an accident is increased 23 times when driving distracted.
  • Younger drivers are more likely to die from accidents caused by distracted driving.
  • Around one fifth of all fatal road accidents are caused by distracted driving.
  • In Ontario, more deaths are caused by distracted driving than by speeding or driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • 33% of Canadian drivers admit to using their phones while waiting for a green light.
  • A driver in rush hour traffic will have to pay attention to around 3,000 items in their driving environment.
  • 87% of Canadian drivers say they are aware of the risks of using a mobile phone while driving. However, 45% of those drivers admit they have sent text messages while driving.
  • 41% of drivers in Canada would reconsider using a mobile phone while driving if they were involved in an accident caused by someone using a mobile phone when behind the wheel.

What does the law say about distracted driving?

The details vary between provinces and territories. While all provinces issue fines for using handheld electronic devices while driving, the size of the fines varies as does whether your license will be suspended or not.

For example, according to the CAA, drivers in British Columbia will get a fine of $543, and four demerits, and two or more infractions within 12 months can result in a 3-12 month prohibition.

In Nunavut, the fine is $5,000 but there is no license suspension. Other areas where there is no suspension as a consequence of driving while distracted are Yukon, Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Full details for all the provinces and territories can be found on the CAA website.

Fatal car accidents in Canada

In 2018, 1,922 Canadians died in motor vehicle accidents. This was a 3.6% increase compared to the previous year when there were 1,856 deaths. However, the number of deaths is not necessarily the best indicator of road safety. Instead, deaths per 100,000 residents is the standard ratio used to compare road safety statistics between countries.

According to rankings from World Life Expectancy, in 2020, there were 4.58 deaths from motor vehicle accidents per 100,000 residents in Canada. In comparison, in Singapore, which has some of the safest roads in the world, the rate was 1.69 deaths per 100,00 people in the same year.

The safest countries were Antigua and Barbados with 0 and Micronesia with 0.18. The most dangerous roads in the world were in the Dominican Republic and Zimbabwe with rates of 67.23 and 63.47, respectively.

Most deaths on the road happen to drivers and passengers of 4-wheel motor vehicles. Data from 2013 shows that 66% of fatal accidents were in cars, 8.4% on motorbikes, 2.5% were cyclists, and 15.7% were pedestrians. There was no data for 6.7% of road accidents.

Are Canadians using their phones while driving?

According to the Government of Canada, significantly more Canadians admitted to talking on their phone while driving in 2019 compared to 2010. In 2010, 4.8% of drivers said they use mobile phones while driving compared to 9.7% in 2019. That is an increase of 102%.

The likelihood of using a phone decreases with age. For each 10-year increase in age, drivers were 44% less likely to send or read text messages, 38% less likely to use handheld electronic devices, and 28% less likely to use a hands-free phone. Canadian men are more likely to use mobile phones while driving with 62% of them more likely to use a handheld phone and 50% more likely to use a hands-free phone than women drivers.

While 87% of Canadian drivers know about the risks of using a mobile phone while driving, 54% of those drivers admit they use their phones to make calls while driving. 45% of them admit they send text messages while driving.

In another survey, almost half of Canadian drivers admit to using a phone while driving

According to findings by the CAA, in 2020, 47% of Canadian drivers admitted they use a phone while driving. Using a mobile phone or another electronic handheld device while driving is usually referred to as distracted driving statistics. Other things that can distract the driver include talking to passengers, using navigation devices or the radio, and eating and drinking. However, texting is the most dangerous activity as it will take the driver’s eyes off the road for the longest time.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sending a text takes your eyes off the road for five seconds. When driving at 90 km per hour, this is equivalent to driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Information from Belair Direct shows that a fighter pilot on a non-combat mission needs to keep track of around 300 items. In comparison, a driver in rush hour traffic needs to keep track of around 3,000 items.

A third of Canadian drivers use a phone while waiting at the traffic lights

33% of Canadian drivers admit they used their phones while waiting for a green light. While this is not as dangerous as using your phone while driving, it can still cause traffic accidents.

Surfing the internet while driving

Texting and talking on the phone are not the only mobile phone related offences that distract drivers with one in five Canadian drivers admitting to surfing the web while driving.

Texting while driving increases the risk of an accident 23 times

Considering the fact that driving while texting is the same as driving blind, it is not surprising that the risk of an accident is 23 times higher. Dialing your mobile phone while driving increases your chance of having an accident by 2.8 times.

According to the CAA, Canadians generally recognise the dangers of distracted driving, such as texting while driving. Still, 75% of Canadian drivers admit to having driven while being distracted.

Younger people are more likely to die as a result of distracted driving. Drivers aged 16-19 are four times more likely to die from distracted driving than those aged 25-34. They are 9 times more likely to die than drivers aged 45-54. 94% of teen drivers are aware of the dangers of texting when driving. However, 35% of those admitted to doing it despite the dangers.

25% of Canadian teen drivers say that they answer at least one text every time they are behind the wheel. 77% of all drivers believe they can easily manage sending or reading a text while paying attention to the road and other traffic, including cyclists and pedestrians.

Around a fifth of fatal car accidents in Canada are caused by distracted driving

In 2016, 27% of all severe injuries resulting from road accidents were a direct consequence of driving while distracted. In the same year, 21% of fatalities on the road were caused by distracted driving. Ten years earlier, the percentage of fatal collisions resulting from distracted driving was 16% and serious injuries 22%. These show that the portion of accidents with fatalities and serious injuries caused by distracted driving is on the rise in Canada.

21% of accidents in 2016, represents around 400 of all accidents, while around 1,500 road fatalities were caused by impaired driving.

While driving under the influence of alcohol or psychoactive substances is still the major cause of fatalities, texting and driving is becoming a more common cause and is predicted to become the major cause of car crash fatalities and injuries in Canada.

In some provinces and territories across Canada, deaths from accidents caused by distracted driving have already overtaken deaths caused by impaired driving.

For example, in Ontario, deaths from collisions caused by distracted driving have doubled since 2000 and are now the leading cause of accidents in the province. Around 64% of all accidents in Ontario are now caused by distracted driving.

How do Canadians feel about using phones while driving?

According to findings by the CAA, Canadians say that texting and driving is one of the biggest threats to road safety. Most Canadians have also reacted positively to the increase in fines for using a phone when driving.

41% of Canadian drivers say that getting into an accident caused by someone using a mobile phone while driving would make them reconsider using a phone when behind the wheel. High fines are a deterrent for 26% of drivers in Canada. However, the current measurements certainly do not seem to be enough to stop all drivers from using their phones to text while driving.

What is being done to prevent texting and other use of mobile phones while driving in Canada?

There are several ways the government in Canada as well as the individual provinces and territories are trying to reduce the use of phones while driving. These include awareness campaigns about the dangers of texting and driving, frequent campaigns by police to catch drivers texting while driving, harsher penalties for using phones while driving, and educating new and young drivers about safe driving practices.

Conclusions

While Canada has some of the safest roads in the world, statistics show that fatal accidents from distracted driving, and especially from using handheld electronic devices while driving, are on the rise.

It is predicted that in Canada, mobile phone related accidents and fatalities may soon overtake the number of accidents and fatalities caused by driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. In some provinces, such as Ontario, this has already happened.

While provinces and territories will issue fines and just under half will also suspend licenses if caught using a mobile phone while driving, they are not enough to deter all drivers. More education about the dangers texting and driving is required, especially among young drivers who are more likely to drive while distracted and be involved in fatal accidents.

Frequently Asked Questions

The biggest cause of deaths on the road in Canada is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. However, police predict that driving while distracted will become the main cause of fatal accidents in the future.

The consequences vary between provinces and territories. Drivers will receive a fine in all provinces. However, the size of the fine varies greatly. In five Canadian provinces and the Northwest Territories, drivers will also have their licenses suspended for various lengths of time.

Canada has some of the safest roads in the world, with 4,58 deaths per 100,000 residents in 2020.

No, even if you were stationary in traffic lights, it would still count as using your phone while driving. The only exception is using your phone in an emergency.

Yes, you can. For example, you can get fined $368 for eating a bowl of soup while driving in Canada.

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