Study finds that 91 percent of drivers are too distracted to drive safely

allstate infographic portion
© Allstate Insurance Canada

Or does it really? Are they not doing what the car is designed for them to do?

A recent study by Léger on behalf of Allstate Insurance of Canada claims that 9 out of 10 drivers engage in risky behaviour, with fully half of them talking on the phone (albeit with hands-free phones). What’s worse, only 22 percent “actually admit or recognize that they are distracted drivers.”

The headline, the survey and the coverage of it should be taken with un grain de sel, because it was done in Quebec, where drivers have a certain reputation; a previous survey done by another insurance company found that 58 percent of Quebecois drivers speed, 31 percent swear, and 19 percent display rude hand gestures -- and one quarter of them think they are perfect drivers.

But the other problem is what Allstate and the study considered the risky behaviour that 91 percent of drivers are doing.

Many drivers admit to using driver-assisted technology while behind the wheel. Close to 4 out of ten (38 per cent) say they use integrated functions to change the music or use the hands-free multimedia option (35 per cent) to text or read emails. Close to a quarter say they use their phones (25 per cent) to make or take a call, text or take a picture, or adjust the GPS (23 per cent) while driving.

Changing radio channels, looking at maps and using hand free phones are perfectly legal and built into the dashboards of cars. In fact there seems to be a tech war on to see who can provide the most legal distraction. So a major chunk of those people who are distracted are doing exactly what the car manufacturers designed the cars to do: be quiet, comfortable, entertaining mobile media/living rooms.

"A vehicle with extra bells and whistles is all the rage and you never know what the automobile industry will put out next. But driving a vehicle is a huge responsibility and sharing the road with a distracted driver could put the lives of many at risk," says Denis Talbot, technology expert and spokesperson for the Allstate Canada Distracted Driving Study.

The insurance company recommends that you keep your phone out of reach, figure out where you are going before you leave, program your entertainment system and most importantly,

Focus on the road.

Summer driving can be fun, especially when travelling with friends and good music, but while you may be tempted to crank up the tunes, nibble on snacks, or take pictures along the way, remember these are all things that take your eyes, hands, and mind off the road. Your attention should be on driving, with both eyes focused on what's happening in front of you and with your hands on the wheel. Schedule parking breaks for any other activity.

tesla dashboard© Tesla Dashboard/ no distractions here.

TreeHugger has noted before that cars are designed for distraction; it is hard not to play with this stuff. We have suggested that manufacturers should simplify and standardize or even eliminate entertainment systems. This is not your living room, it is transportation. When you look at Allstate’s infographic, people are doing some awfully silly things while they drive, and most of them are perfectly legal. So instead of blaming the drivers, why not fix the cars? End this design for distraction.

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