What Counts as Distracted Driving?

You’re driving home and you hear a text message ding on your phone while you’re safely stopped at a red light. You check the message and punch out a quick one-word reply. No harm done. Light turns green and off you go.

Did you know that texting and driving is considered distracted driving? And by writing out that one word, you may be breaking the law.

All provinces in Canada, plus the Yukon and Northwest Territories have bans in place on using cellphones or hand-held electronic devices while driving. Depending on the legislation, penalties can include hefty fines and, in many cases, demerit points.1

Aside from breaking the law, did you also know that you are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision if you text while driving and 4 times more likely if you talk on a cellphone (hand-held or hands-free) while driving?2 Even if it’s just a quick one-word reply.

During distracted driving, a driver's attention is focused elsewhere, and not on the road. Some examples of distracted driving include adjusting the radio, petting your dog, and eating behind the wheel. Passengers can also distract drivers and should do their part to make sure drivers are focused on the road, not the company. Distracted driving reduces awareness and impairs decision-making, which can lead to errors on the road, accidents almost taking place, or collisions.

Believe it or not, distracted driving is now the number one risk on Canadian roads, contributing to 8 in 10 police-reported collisions3. This means that distracted driving is more common than you may think. These police-reported collisions involved some form of driver inattention up to 3 seconds prior to the event. When distracted, a driver may fail to see and register up to 50% of the available information in their driving environment.

Canadian Distractions Behind the Wheel

Nearly 75% of Canadian drivers admit to driving distracted4. Here are a few more examples of distracted behaviours behind the wheel:

  •   Adjusting playlist or radio
  •   Eating and drinking
  •   Looking and talking to passengers
  •   Talking on the phone with a hands-free device
  •   Reaching for something in the backseat
  •   Talking on a cellphone
  •   Sending text messages
  •   Adjusting GPS
  •   Taking off or putting on clothes or accessories
  •   Fixing hair and makeup

It is important to note that although the behaviours noted above are distracted driving behaviours, not all behaviours are illegal. However, these behaviours put the safety of you and your passengers at risk, so it is important to be aware of them.

So, which distracted driving behaviours are illegal?

  •   It is illegal to use hand-held wireless communication devices, such as your cellphone.
  •   It is also illegal to text, dial, or email while driving

Fines vary according to each province, so it is imperative to know the rules for your province.

What can you do legally?

  •   You may use a hands-free wireless communication device if you absolutely have to take a call while you are driving, such an earpiece. Although this is legal, it is important to be aware that it still creates a distraction while you drive.
  •   You may also view the display screens of GPS units as well.

Now that you’re aware of what distracted driving is, do what you can to avoid these distracted behaviours and stay safe on the road.

The following tips are from the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) to help avoid distracted driving:

  •   Know your route: Keep your drive-time focused by mapping out any routes before leaving. Use the voice navigation feature of your GPS or favourite map app so you don't have to check your phone regularly.
  •   Have a playlist ready: Choose playlists and songs before leaving the driveway to make sure you don’t get distracted searching for the perfect driving music
  •   Leave a message: Let your voicemail do what it does best. Put your phone on vibrate or turn it off altogether to limit incoming distractions.c

Did you know?

As a TD Insurance customer with auto coverage, if you've been accident-free for the last 6 years and carry Accident Forgiveness, we will 'forgive' your first at-fault or partially at-fault accident. This means your premiums will not increase when you renew your car insurance policy as a result of the accident specifically. Learn more about Accident Forgiveness.



1. http://www.ibc.ca/qc/auto/distracted-driving-likelife

2. http://www.ibc.ca/qc/auto/distracted-driving-likelife

3. Insurance Bureau of Canada. (September, 2011) DWD may soon be the new DUI. Retrieved June 5, 2018, from http://www.ibc.ca/qc/auto/risk-management/distracted-driving

4. Insurance Bureau of Canada. (September, 2011) DWD may soon be the new DUI. Retrieved June 5, 2018, from http://www.ibc.ca/qc/auto/risk-management/distracted-driving