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Distracted driving and fatigued driving

When a driver is distracted or fatigued (mentally and/or physically), they may not be fully focused on the road. Distractions and fatigue can compromise your judgment and affect your ability to drive safely.

Examples of distracted driving can include driving while:

  • talking and using a mobile device
  • texting
  • reading (e.g. books, maps)
  • programming a GPS
  • watching videos
  • eating or drinking
  • smoking or vaping
  • grooming
  • adjusting the radio
  • listening to extremely loud music
  • talking to passengers

Distracted driving can lead to:

  • reduced reaction time
  • impaired judgment
  • possibly falling asleep behind the wheel
  • injuring or killing yourself, your passengers and/or other people

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The legal impacts of distracted driving can vary depending on the circumstances, and in which province or territory the offence took place. In some provinces, a person can be fined over $500, lose up to 4 demerit points and have their licence suspended.

Consult your provincial or territorial legislation for the penalties that apply where you live.

Reporting distracted driving

If you see a hazardous driver swerving or driving erratically:

  • Safely pull over away from traffic with your hazard lights on
  • Call 9-1-1
  • Provide as many details as you can, including the direction in which the car was going, the street it was on, and the make and model of the vehicle. The licence plate number can help too

Do NOT call 9-1-1 if you spot someone using their phone who is not displaying dangerous driving behaviour. Instead, call your local police's non-emergency line to report it. Find the number for your area on your local police service's website.

Help reduce distracted driving

Driving requires your full attention. Here are some tips to help avoid distracted driving:

Plan your route ahead of time Before you get in the car, know where you're going and how you're getting there. Plan how much time you'll need to reach your destination, road closures to avoid and best time to leave. If you use a GPS system, program your route prior to starting the car. If possible, set your GPS to call out the turns. Have the volume set so you can hear the instructions and do not need to glance down to view the GPS.

Put your cellphone away Keep your cellphone out of your reach. Reduce the temptation to use it by keeping it out of sight, like in a bag, and turn the ringer off. Most smartphones can now be setup to send an auto reply when you receive a text or phone call while driving.

Notify your passengers Passengers in your vehicle is a common distraction. Some provinces limit 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. Silence can help when deciding on the safest actions to take.

Avoid eating and drinking while driving If you need to take a drink, wait until you are stopped at a red light.

Keep music or radio at a reasonable volume Music should never be so loud that you would not be able to hear a siren, or the screech of brakes from another vehicle.

Keep personal grooming for the home Don't apply makeup, shave, use creams or brush your teeth while driving.

Secure objects in the vehicle 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. Don't reach for items while driving.

Help reduce fatigued driving

You can't always predict when you will begin feeling drowsy. Remember that if you are struggling to stay awake, you shouldn't be behind the wheel.

Everyone gets tired, so here are some tips to help reduce the risk of fatigued driving:

  • Plan ahead to make sure you get enough sleep before you go on a trip
  • On long trips, switch drivers every few hours; you shouldn't be driving to the point of exhaustion
  • Don't schedule trips during your usual wake-up and bed times
  • Drive during daylight hours when possible
  • Travel with someone who can help keep you alert
  • Take a nap before driving