The dangers of distracted driving

Most of us couldn’t imagine life without our cellphones. We don’t just use them to communicate—we depend on them to navigate, listen to music, watch TV, and even make purchases. And as amazing as these powerful little machines are, they can also be extremely dangerous—if you use them while driving.

When drivers text or talk on their phones, it takes their eyes and attention off the road. By reducing a driver’s awareness, cellphone use can make them slower to notice what’s happening around them, and less able to respond quickly and safely.
According to the National Safety Council, cellphone use while driving leads to 1.6 million collisions each year. And in some parts of Canada, distracted driving fatalities have even surpassed those caused by impaired driving.
An increasing problem among young drivers
A driver who is texting is six times more likely to be involved in a collision, according to one study. Despite this, many young drivers don’t understand the risks of using their phone while behind the wheel. In a recent poll, 39% of young drivers said that they text and drive, and 71% of those didn’t think it was “distracted driving.” Distracted driving is thought to be a causal factor in roughly 19% of all fatal collisions involving teen drivers—and it can be particularly dangerous when driving near railway tracks.

In June 2014, 18-year-old Laura Tardif was killed when the car she was driving was hit by a train at a railway crossing in L’Isle-Verte, Quebec. Laura didn’t see the train coming because she was using her cellphone to text a friend. In August 2018, another teen, 16-year-old Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk, died after her car was struck by a train in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. At the time of the incident, she had been using her phone’s GPS to navigate and didn’t see or hear the train coming.

Ensuring Canadians understand the risks

Both Kailynn’s and Laura’s tragic stories are the focus of videos in Operation Lifesaver’s #STOPTrackTragedies campaign. The campaign is just one of the ways we’re trying to educate drivers—especially young drivers—about the tragic consequences of using cellphones while behind the wheel.
Whether you’re a new driver or a more experienced one, always keep two hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road, and your cellphones out of reach! When approaching a railway crossing, slow down, prepare to stop, and look both ways and listen for trains before proceeding through. If the warning signals at the crossing are activated, always stop behind any gates or stop lines—or no closer than 5 metres from the nearest rail—and wait for all trains to pass. Don’t continue through the crossing until you’re sure it’s safe to do so.

Follow these rules and share them with other drivers in your life—especially young drivers. It could save a life.