Put down your phone: No text is worth your life

There’s no question that in today’s connected world, we love our phones. Most of us have trouble putting them down—even in our cars. Three out of four Canadian drivers admit to driving while distracted. And that’s causing major problems on Canada’s roads.

According to the Ontario Provincial Police, distracted drivers are behind more fatal collisions in the province than any other factor. In fact, you are four times more likely to be involved in a collision if you are talking on a cell phone (hand-held or hands-free) while driving—and 23 times more likely if you’re texting while driving.

Not only could using your phone while driving increase your chances of getting in an accident, it could also cost you your licence. All provinces in Canada, as well as the Yukon and Northwest Territories, now ban the use of cell phones or hand-held electronic devices while driving. Depending on the province, penalties can include hefty fines and demerit points.

On January 1, 2019, Ontario introduced new distracted driving laws. Drivers who are caught talking on their phones, texting, dialling or emailing using a hand-held device now face a fine of up to $1,000 with a three-day licence suspension and three demerit points.
Risking more than just a hefty fine
Unfortunately, using your cell phone while driving can also end in tragedy—a fact Sandra LaRose knows all too well. Last August, her 16-year-old daughter, Kailynn Bursic-Panchuk, died after her car was struck by a train in Weyburn, Saskatchewan. Kailynn had been using the GPS on her phone to navigate and didn’t see or hear the train coming.

“The police constable told me that the reason for the crash was distracted driving, and that Google maps was activated and she had Snapchat notifications,” says LaRose. “Ever since Kailynn’s accident, my purse goes into the back seat, and my phone does too. If it’s sitting on the seat next to you or on the console and it flickers, you’re going to look down. If you’re looking down, you’re not looking at the road.”

Since Kailynn’s accident, LaRose has made it her mission to spread a simple—but important—message to all drivers.

“Get the hell off your phone. There is nothing important enough to take that call while you’re driving,” says LaRose. “Nobody would drive with a beer bottle in his or her hand, because it’s illegal. In Saskatchewan, it’s illegal to drive with your phone in your hand. So, if you wouldn’t drive with a beer bottle in your hand, why would you use a cellphone?”

Heed LaRose’s message: Next time you get behind the wheel, put your phone away. It could save your life.