Windsor Drivers Improving, Distracted Driving Crashes Increasing

Read Original Article At The Windsor Star

Windsor drivers are doing slightly better avoiding accidents compared to cities across Canada, but distracted driving continues to grow here and across the country, according to a study by Allstate Insurance.

Windsor is doing well, Lisa McWatt, director of brand innovation for Allstate in describing the local rate for car accidents. It is better than average for southwestern Ontario. The good news story is that (the accident rate) is stable.

It would be hard to tell on Thursday local drivers are being more careful.

Windsor police reported 11 fender benders during the morning commute hours   the years first day of substantial snow.

But the number of motor vehicle accidents in Windsor is down from 4,531 in 2012  to 4,617 in 2011, according to police.

Allstate's fifth annual Safe Driving Study ranks Windsor 18th over a two-year period from July 1, 2011, to June 30, 2013 among  50 Canadian communities.

The frequency of collisions per 100 cars insured by the company showed southwestern Ontario placed second of the five regions ranked in the province.

In the southwest region, Sarnia had the lowest collisions (3.50 per cent) ranking second in Canada overall. That city is followed by St. Catharines (4.19), Niagara Falls (4.51), Brantford (4.61), Windsor (4.64), Guelph (4.64), Cambridge (4.65), Kitchener (4.77) and London (5.30).

The study also details how drivers should look to get off the roads as quick you can on Thursdays and Fridays.

Fridays have the most collisions (17.0 per cent), followed by Thursdays (16.0). Sunday drivers are the safest with only 9.8 per cent of collisions happening that day.

McWatt could only guess drivers are more fatigued, in a hurry to get somewhere at the end of their work week or victims of distracted driving.

There are stats on driver fatigue which can be equated to a form of impaired driving, she said. You have more people drinking, people in a rush to get home, to a party or texting someone they are about to meet. You have a combination of factors there on those days.

You also have the density of traffic that you don't see on Sundays.

McWatt pointed to distracted driving accidents continuing to be on the rise despite laws forbidding cell phone use or texting when behind the wheel.

Collision rates have almost reached the some degree as drinking and driving, she said.

Windsor police Sgt. Matt DAsti spoke at length Thursday on how Windsor drivers need to better understand the message to put down their cell phones or other devices while behind the wheel.

Too many accidents on local roads are linked to distracted driving despite new laws and penalties to address the issue, he said.

Far too often  whether its young people, workers in company trucks or professionals  drivers yakking away on cell phones remains all too common on Windsors streets despite police ramping up the number of charges and crackdown campaigns against distracted driving.

We have implemented several proactive measures and traffic initiatives to address distracted driving, DAsti said. In this age everybody is attached to a device. Unfortunately, people are in the habit of bringing their devices wherever they go, including their vehicles.

New court rulings see police now able to charge drivers just for having a cell phone in their hands, whether its on or not.

People may think they can multi-task, DAsti said. We know statistically the number of serious or fatal collisions due to distracted driving is going up.  People need to realize the second they take to look at their phone can be a fatal moment.

Some people believe when they are in the vehicles they have the ability to use their phones and drive safely. We are trying to educate people as best we can thats not the case. We are in favour of increased penalties to drive the message home. People need to stop doing it. Your impatience and reaching for your phone can cause a fatal accident.

Bob Annan, a retired police accident reconstructionist in the Toronto area, has operated Accident Awareness  a group which has gone into schools across Ontario since 1993 and spoke to over 600,000 students.

The focus of presentations in years gone by was on drinking and driving, but in recent years turned to distracted driving.

Annan cited one of his most painful memories as being a death three years ago of a young woman who was eight months pregnant who died in a crash because she was texting.

Distracted driving is a big problem, he said. You can sit in one spot and see people in their 60s or 70s texting or on their cell phones. Its a problem even with pedestrians. You see them walking into poles or trees.

There needs to tougher laws in Ontario, Annan said.

We need to apply (demerit) points to it  just like the seat belt law, he said. The good thing is people are starting to talk about it. People are taking notice and you can only hope its starting to get in their heads they shouldn't be doing this.

Drivers need to put their phone on mute, so they are not even attempted to read an incoming text or answer a cell phone call, Annan said.

Exercise control over what you are doing in the car, he said. If you hit somebody or kill somebody because you were tempted to look at a text that can affect your whole life. These fatalities don't need to be happening.

Windsor drivers improving, but distracted driving crashes growing. Collision rates in southwestern Ontario:

  • St. Catharines 4.19 %
  • Niagara Falls  4.51 %
  • Brantford 4.61 %
  • Windsor 4.64 %
  • Guelph 4.64 %
  • Cambridge 4.65 %
  • Kitchener 4.77 %
  • London 5.30 %