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B.C. drivers say they're 'focused' but admit to multitasking: study

Last Updated Jun 1, 2021 at 9:49 pm PDT

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A new survey of B.C. drivers finds 93 per cent consider themselves to be focused behind the wheel

Nearly one in four also admit to having been in a crash or near-miss because of distracted driving

BCAA points out studies have shown people can't actually multitask

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) — Most B.C. drivers consider themselves to be focused behind the wheel, but nearly a quarter also say they’ve been in a crash or near-miss because of distracted driving, according to a new study.

The BCAA report found 93 per cent of people surveyed said they were focused. It says while B.C. drivers understand the dangers of using cell phones while driving, they fail to see that fiddling with the dashboard features, eating or drinking, and interacting with passengers can put lives in danger.

“Distracted driving is the second leading cause of fatal collisions in B.C. each year,” the report reads. “B.C. drivers confess to doing a lot more behind the wheel than driving. While most initially said that changing the music was their one distraction, when probed further, many admitted to many more inattentive behaviours: from interacting with passengers (76%) to adjusting the climate control (74%), or scanning for street signs and numbers (71%). Other confessions included eating and drinking, checking their phones at red lights, and enjoying scenery to name a few.”

“There is a real blind spot that all of us as drivers need to address,” says Shawn Pettipas, BCAA’s Director, Community Engagement.

He says drivers are failing to see “multitasking” while driving is taking their focus away from the road.

Related article: Many British Columbians support harsher penalties for distracted drivers: poll

Dr. Ian Pike, Co-Executive Director with The Community Against Preventable Injuries says there’s no such thing as multitasking, adding the human brain can only do one thing at a time effectively.

“As people can rapidly switch their attention back and forth across tasks, they falsely believe that they can multitask, when the reality is that they aren’t doing a good job of anything, which is frightening given the responsibility of driving,” Pike says.

The car agency points out studies have shown people can’t actually multitask, but switch focus rapidly from activity to activity, meaning they aren’t doing a good job at any one thing while distracted.

“Road environments can change instantly, making losing focus behind the wheel a serious risk,” the BCAA release reads. “According to Preventable, a distracted driver going 100 kms per hour travels essentially blind for 52 meters – or the length of an entire hockey rink – in just two seconds. And handsfree communications aren’t always the solution. People are distracted for up to 27 seconds after they send a “voice text” – a frightening fact given travelling distance in that time.”

To be a more focused driver, BCAA advises drivers for three things; set boundaries, use a co-pilot, and plan ahead.

To set your boundary, you can let people who may be contacting you know you’re driving and will be unreachable for some time.

“Set ‘I’m driving’ auto messages and store your device where you can’t see or access it,” BCAA say for example.

Or ask passengers to help you focus.

“Put them in charge of anything that could distract you. Let them adjust the stereo or climate controls, find street addresses, and minimize engrossing conversations.”

Lastly, look up your addresses and directions before you drive off.

“Set your playlist. Eat before or after you drive or plan where you’ll stop to grab a bite. Harness your dog. Set your kids up with entertainment,” the release adds.

“Everything can wait,” Pettipas says.

For more about the risks, and tips to stay safe, visit the BCAA website.