Did You Know?

There are many different sources of driver distraction, for example: smoking or vaping, using a smart phone or GPS, and eating and drinking. Drivers also tend to be more distracted during certain times of the year, week and day.

The two sides of technological development

Although technology can be of great help to drivers, some technologies go too far and become significant sources of distraction.

Some vehicle technology is designed to increase safety, such as collision avoidance systems or lane departure warning systems, and many cars are now equipped with such technology. These systems help drivers by warning them about potential dangers on the road, thereby increasing their safety. Such technology has become more widely available and is no longer offered only in luxury vehicles.

However, these same vehicles are often equipped with other technology that can distract drivers. Smart phones, which are ever more powerful and sophisticated, can now connect directly to vehicles, and feature touch screens where music, videos and GPS systems are right at one’s fingertips.

Distracted driving is one of the main causes of accidents with bodily injury most often mentioned by police officers

It is difficult to estimate the number of cases of distraction at the wheel. Nevertheless, we can state that it is the cause of many accidents.

There are 4 types of distraction:

  • visual: eyes off the road
  • manual: hands off the wheel
  • cognitive: mind off the task (the most difficult to assess)
  • auditory: listening to things that are not connected to driving or the road (for example, listening to a phone ringing or music playing)

Distraction can affect more than one function at a time. Oftentimes, a task performed while driving is the source of many types of distraction. For example, sending a text is a source of cognitive, visual and manual distraction.

Most common distractions at the wheel

Research shows that sources of distraction are varied and numerous.

A 2021 survey showed that the most common sources of distraction are daydreaming, cell phones, and passengers and animals in the vehicle.

The survey also showed that nearly one in eight drivers (13%) was often distracted or very often distracted when driving. The 2020 survey revealed that 83% of respondents admitted to having gotten distracted at the wheel, and 98% recognized that anyone can get distracted at the wheel.

When and where does distraction cause the most accidents?

The afternoon (from noon to 5:59 p.m.) is the time when the most accidents resulting in bodily injury due to distraction occur. Accidents occurring due to distraction are also more frequent at the end of the week (Thursday and Friday) and from June to September. These accidents occur more often in favourable driving conditions (e.g. good weather, dry roads).

Accidents due to distraction occur most often on main roads and numbered roads, often at intersections, and are more frequent on roads where the speed limit is 50 km/h.

How do Quebecers perceive distracted driving?

A survey conducted in 2017 on behalf of the SAAQ revealed that:

  • 97% of adult Quebecers consider that distracted driving is a very serious or quite serious problem
  • 87% are of the opinion that Québec drivers are very often or quite often distracted

Pedestrians and cyclists: keep your eyes and ears open!

Distraction is one of the causes most often mentioned by police officers with regard to accidents involving cars and pedestrians or cyclists.

Do you use a motorized mobility aid? be cautious!

Using a cell phone or any other screen or electronic device makes you as vulnerable as pedestrians and cyclists, and can also make you a danger to other unprotected road users around you.

Last update: August 11, 2023