BCAA survey suggests drivers are more alert and roads are safer because of distracted driving law

BURNABY, BC, Jan. 26 2011 – After a year of not being able to talk on a hand-held phone or text while driving, many B.C. drivers say they’re more attentive behind the wheel and that our roads seem safer. In a BCAA online survey of 2,139 drivers, 57 per cent said they think our roads are safer as a result of the law restricting the use of mobile electronics while driving. In addition, 34 per cent said they are paying more attention to the way they drive because of the law.

As for how, and how many, drivers continue to talk on cell phones while driving, 14 per cent of those surveyed talk “frequently” (more than once a week) using a hands-free device. Only three per cent admitted to talking frequently using a hand-held phone, but almost 13 per cent said they continue to talk “occasionally” on a hand-held phone.

On the other hand, 80 per cent of those surveyed said they frequently observe other drivers talking on hand-held phones. And what do they do when they see another driver with a phone to his/her ear? Over half – 55 per cent – say they give a dirty look or gesture to the driver to get off the phone. Three per cent roll down the window and say something to the other driver, while two per cent write down their license plate number and give it to the police.

“While BCAA doesn’t recommend engaging with other drivers over their cell phone and texting habits, the responses to this survey suggest drivers are frustrated by those who continue to disobey the law,” said Trace Acres, BCAA’s Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs. “Although awareness of, and compliance with, the law appears to be high, it seems we still have a ways to go to make everyone understand the dangers of driving while distracted.”

Ad campaigns aimed at educating drivers about the dangers of distractions are, according to the survey, less effective today that they were six months ago. Today, 47 per cent of survey respondents think the provincial government is effectively informing and educating drivers about the dangers of talking on a hand-held phone, compared to 54 per cent of those surveyed six months ago. Similarly, 46 per cent think a good job is being done to warn drivers about the dangers of texting while driving, compared to 56 per cent who said so six months ago.

Enforcement is something else that drivers who took this survey say has slipped. Six months ago, 26 per cent of the survey respondents felt you had a good chance of being caught and ticketed for texting or talking on a hand-held phone. Today, that number is just 15 per cent.

Other survey highlights:

  • Four per cent of drivers surveyed continue to read and send text messages “frequently” (more than once a week) while driving, and seven percent said they text “occasionally.” The large majority of drivers surveyed – 89 per cent – said they do not text while driving.
  • Nearly all survey respondents identified reading (99 per cent) and texting (98 per cent) as dangerous driving distractions. Talking on a hand-held phone was declared dangerous by 88 per cent of those surveyed, while a lesser, but still significant number – 39 per cent – said talking on a hands-free phone is also dangerous. Other activities that most survey respondents said are dangerous include grooming, such as shaving or applying make-up (92 per cent), and holding a pet in your lap (85 per cent).
  • Survey participants said they see more drivers talking on a hand-held phone (80 per cent frequently) than they see drivers eating and drinking (68 per cent frequently).

About BCAA

BCAA strives to deliver an amazing experience to its 795,000 members, providing peace-of-mind and meeting their automotive, road travel and insurance needs. BCAA is the largest organization of its kind in B.C., with $400 million in gross annual sales and a Member in one-in-four B.C. households. In addition to receiving award winning roadside assistance and insurance services, Members can also take advantage of CAA dollar rewards, insurance discounts and the Member exclusive Show Your Card & Save program. To learn more about BCAA’s benefits, services and advocacy, visit www.bcaa.com.