February 2019 | Community

Sgt. Darrin Turnbull with the Airdrie RCMP poses for a photo in Airdrie on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. (Zach Laing / Postmedia Network)

Most of us have been there, driving in our car, truck or SUV, paying attention to the road, just looking to get where we want to go. Suddenly you hear a sound, maybe it is a bing, a buzz, or that distinct vibration of the phone on plastic. Your mind starts to waiver, you start wondering to yourself who could it be? What if it's important? Your mind starts to make excuses, "I'm a safe driver, it will only take a quick moment, there is no danger answering in it." Your hand reaches starts to reach for the phone...  Most of us have been there, so what happens next?

February is Distracted Driving Month

In Alberta, every February is Distracted Driving Month and for good cause, the numbers and trends are worrying, something that too many people are seeing as harmless is resulting in nearly double the number of deaths than compared to drunk driving.  People are putting themselves and everyone around them at risk with the simple use of their phone and the numbers are not getting better. Over a 3 day period in Airdrie 43 distracted drivers were caught and ticketed, in 2017 23,546 across Alberta.

Sgt. Turnbull said one driver has racked up 11 distracted-driving offences in the Calgary area.

“For him to be caught 11 times, he’s got to be doing it every day,” he said.

“It’s a social situation we are battling here where it’s so important to stay connected. You hear that text message on your phone and you wonder if it’s important. ‘I wonder if it’s my brother, my sister, my mom and they need help.’

But the RCMP is fighting back by utilizing an unmarked, raised van to illustrate how motorists behave when they don’t know they’re being watched; plus an innovative fourth option program to hammer home the dangers of driving distracted.

What is Option 4?

Option 4 is a program recently evolved to help combat the issue of distracted driving in Alberta by showing what their actions can lead to.

"So today what we had first were presenters involved in one specific case involving a young girl named Melody Battle. Melody tragically was involved in a very bad car crash in 2013 near Rocky Mountain House, where she actually ran into the back end of a grater. She hit it at highway speeds and the impact was at 85 Km/hr, she didn’t even see it. She did survive, but she suffered a traumatic brain injury. So as a result of her traumatic brain injury, her life is forever changed. Melody at the time was trying to send a text message to her boss to say “I’m running a little bit late”. That “little bit late” changed her life and her family’s life forever. " - Sgt. Darrin Turnbull

How to reduce distracted driving.

Driving always requires your full attention. Here are some distracted driving solutions provided to help make your drive safer:

Plan Your Route – Planning your route should occur before getting in the car so you have a good handle on where you're going and how you're going to get there. Plan how much time you'll need to reach your destination, road closures to avoid and the best time to leave. If you will be using a GPS system, program your route prior to starting the car. If your GPS can call out the turns, you should have it set to do so. Have the volume set so you can hear the instructions and do not need to glance down to view the GPS.

Put your Cell Phone Away – Cell phones should be out of your reach. Reduce the temptation by keeping it out of sight, like in the trunk or in a bag, and turn the ringer off. Most smartphones can now be set up to send an auto-reply when you receive a text or phone call.

Passengers – Passengers in your vehicle is a common distraction, as a result, graduated licensing (in some provinces) limits the number of passengers that are allowed with a younger driver. Advise your passengers to be quiet if a risky situation arises on the road; your attention will be less on the road if you're talking/listening to them. Silence will also help when deciding what the safest actions to take are.

Having passengers in your car differs from talking on the phone because the person on the other end of the phone will not know when to be quiet as they are unable to spot any safety risks.

Eating and Drinking – It's best to avoid eating and drinking while driving. If you need to take a drink, wait until you are stopped at a red light.

Music – Music should never be so loud that you would not be able to hear a siren or the screech of brakes from another vehicle.

Personal Grooming – Do your personal grooming at home, not while driving a vehicle.

Secure Objects – Place any items like purses, backpacks, and coats in the trunk or safely tucked behind the seat on the ground so they will not go flying if you have to brake in an emergency. Items that are flying around may distract you from the road. For example, items that are falling out of your purse might grab your attention and your instinctive reaction may be to reach for the things that are/went flying.

Source: Alberta RCMP

It’s getting easier to drive safely.

Ford is no stranger to making its vehicles distraction free while driving, with the introduction of the Ford SYNC system in 2007, hands-free operation has become easier. The system connects your phone through Bluetooth or a cable to do everything from handle your call and texts through audio, to giving you real-time updates through map services such as Waze, all while you keep your eyes on the road.

Facts from: https://crimestoppers.ab.ca/edmonton/2017/02/01/distracteddriving/

As part of our commitment to the community Woodridge Ford has always been a proud partner of driving initiatives in Calgary, and Alberta, whether it is making sure that people are informed about proper safety when driving in winter or fighting distracted driving. Safe and responsible driving has always been a strong priority for us and will continue to be in the future.