Six months after B.C.'s new distracted driving law, BCAA survey suggests most
drivers no longer using hand-held phones

Respondents say, however, they frequently see others continuing to drive while holding a phone to their ear

BURNABY, B.C., July 15 /CNW/ - An on-line survey of over 7,500 B.C. drivers conducted by the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA) offers a "good news/bad news" story for provincial road safety, says the Association. The good news is that almost all drivers surveyed are aware of B.C.'s distracted driving law implemented January 1st, and the vast majority of those who previously talked or texted on a hand-held phone while driving now use hands-free, pull over to take or make a call, or have stopped using a cell phone while driving altogether. The bad news is that survey respondents said they frequently see others continuing to drive while holding a phone to their ear, and feel the likelihood of being caught for doing so is low.

The survey was conducted online via BCAA's website and monthly eNewsletter between June 22 and July 9, with 7,576 drivers participating.

Of the two-thirds of drivers who said they talked on a cell phone while driving before the January 1st law, 84 per cent said they did so using a hand-held phone. And of those drivers who used a hand-held phone before January 1st, 21 per cent said they have switched to hands-free, 35 per cent said they now pull over to make or take a call, and 28 per cent said they have stopped using a phone while driving altogether. Nine per cent said they were using a hands-free device before the law and continue to do so. Only six per cent said they still talk using a hand-held phone, but most do so less than before the law.

"It appears that most B.C. drivers are getting the message that using a hand-held communications device while driving is distracting and dangerous," says Trace Acres, BCAA's Director of Corporate Communications and Government Relations.

"It is particularly encouraging to see the significant number of drivers who either pull off the road to make or take a call, or are no longer using a phone at all."

On the flip-side, 77 per cent of survey respondents said they still observe other drivers talking on a hand-held phone more than once a week, and 37 per cent said they see drivers texting on a hand-held device more than once a week. In addition, three-quarters of those surveyed said they feel the chances of being caught for texting or talking on a hand-held while driving is either unlikely or very unlikely.

"Some drivers, it seems, are still willing to risk the safety of themselves and others, and risk getting caught for the sake of making a call or sending a text," adds Acres. "Although the risk of getting caught for using a hand-held is perceived to be low, BCAA is confident that as more offenders are caught and word gets out, more will think twice before reaching for their hand-held device."

Other findings:

    
    -  Before January 1st, 16 per cent of those surveyed texted while
       driving. After January 1st, of those who previously texted while
       driving, 51 per cent they no longer do so and 32 per cent said they
       pull over to read or send a text. 18 per cent said they continue to
       text while driving, but less than before.

    -  Reading a book or newspaper, or texting using a cell phone or PDA,
       were cited by survey respondents as the most dangerous driver
       distractions - followed by personal grooming, talking on a hand-held
       phone and holding a pet in your lap.

    -  As for other distracting behaviours behind the wheel, 71 per cent say
       they see others eating or drinking more than once a week, 41 per cent
       say they see someone holding a pet in their lap more than once a week,
       and 34 per cent say they see others performing personal grooming
       (styling hair, shaving, applying make-up) more than once a week. On
       the other hand, only two per cent of survey respondents admitted to
       either personal grooming or holding a pet in their lap, more than once
       a week.

    -  A majority of survey respondents think the government has done a good
       job of publicizing the distracted driving law - 59 per cent said they
       feel the government's efforts to inform and educate drivers about the
       law have been effective or very effective, while 54 per cent said the
       government's efforts to educate drivers about the dangers of talking
       using a hand-held device has been effective or very effective.
    

BCAA has shared the results of the survey with police, Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General, and the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles for their review in assessing enforcement and opportunities for continued public education and awareness.

About BCAA

BCAA is the largest organization of its kind in B.C., with over 100 years experience and gross annual sales of nearly $400 million from its membership, insurance and travel businesses. A BCAA Membership can be found in the wallets of over 790,000 British Columbians and in one-in-four B.C. households. For the past two years, BCAA has received the highest score in Canada for home insurance customer satisfaction in a J.D. Power and Associates study. And, for the past four years, BCAA has been named one the 50 Best Employers in Canada by international HR consultants Hewitt Associates and the Globe & Mail's Report on Business magazine. To learn more about BCAA's products, services and member advocacy, visit www.bcaa.com. For more information on the BCAA Traffic Safety Foundation visit www.tsf-bcaa.com.

SOURCE British Columbia Automobile Association

For further information: For further information: Editor's notes: For further information, or to request an interview, please contact: Niela Melanio, BCAA Public Affairs Advisor, Office: 604-268-5342 (M-F between 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.), Cell: 778-228-8859 (any time), Email: niela.melanio@bcaa.com; Trace Acres, BCAA Director of Corporate Communications & Government Relations, Office: 604-268-5029, Cell: 604-788-3753, Email: trace.acres@bcaa.com


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