Keep Your Eyes on the Road, Not on Your Phone

Scott Marshall is Director of Training for Young Drivers of Canada.  He was a judge on the first 3 seasons of Canada’s Worst Driver on Discovery Network. Scott started writing columns on driving for his community paper since 2005.  Since then his columns have been printed in several publications including newspaper, magazines and various web-sites. You can visit his own blog at http://safedriving.wordpress.com. 


We all grew up with rules. We may not have fully understood them, but we tried our best to follow them. There may have been times we argued them, but in the end, we either followed them or faced the consequences. I’m sure this sounds familiar to each of you when you were young, but the same things are happening to us as adults. We face rules every day, yet we argue them. Where does it really get us?

Many provinces have a cell phone law of some type. In Ontario for example, it’s illegal to hold any wireless device or game, regardless of the intended purpose you may have. The distraction alone is enormous. If you know you have a text or email, you’re quite often tempted to see who it was from or what the message was. If we all know we act like this, why can’t we stop when we know it’s illegal and dangerous?

Recently there have been two cases where someone has taken their cell phone conviction to court. They each felt it was unreasonable to be charged with the offence just because it was in their hand and they weren’t using it. They both lost their case and the charges stayed. Perhaps if they followed the rules, it would have been a better use of their time and money  , whether they liked the rules or not.

For too many people, the temptations are very difficult to resist. Perhaps the best way to resist the temptation of using your cell phone while driving it to turn it off and put it out of reach while driving. If it doesn’t buzz or ring, you won’t know you have a text message and won’t be tempted to use it. One of the people fighting their charge in court said they were picking it off the floor where it fell. That too is a distraction. Perhaps securing all loose items can further reduce distractions for drivers. Keeping your mind and not just your eyes on the driving task is important. Driving can be complex enough without adding visual distractions.

Cell phones have become a huge part of our lives, but it’s important for drivers to understand what alternatives they have from using it while they drive. If you’re driving with passengers, have them send the text, receive the text or make the call. My son has a cell phone, so when we’re out together and I think of something that needs to be communicated with his mom, he sends the text message to her. She does the same thing if he’s in the vehicle with her. Before he had his phone, he used mine. It allowed me to keep my focus on driving.

You’re allowed to have a cell phone in the vehicle, but let’s pull over and park before using it. Let’s secure it so it doesn’t distract us from keeping our eyes and mind on the driving task. After all, driving is the real task when we’re behind the wheel, isn’t it?