Increase in Nova Scotia Traffic Fatalities: Is Distracted Driving to Blame?

by John McKiggan

It seems like a day doesn’t go by this summer when I don’t have to read about another needless traffic fatality on Nova Scotia highways. Yesterday media reported that a 17 year old boy died Sunday night after a single vehicle crash on Little Harbour Road in Pictou county. Today Cape Breton Regional Police reported the death of a young man in a car crash that happened just before 9 a.m. in River Ryan, near New Waterford.

Increase in Traffic Deaths

Traffic fatalities in Nova Scotia have seen a huge increase over the last year. As of July 10 there had been 41 car related deaths in Nova Scotia. These statistics don’t include the 6 fatalities reported over the last two weeks alone!

With 5 months remaining in the year, 2012 is shaping up as the deadliest year on Nova Scotia’s highways in recent memory.

Major Contributors to Traffic Fatalities

Accident investigators are at a loss to point to any specific reason to explain the sudden spike in fatalities. RCMP say there are 4 major contributors to traffic fatalities:

• Drunk driving;
• Distracted Driving;
• Aggressive driving; and • Speeding.

In a recent interview with CBC, RCMP accident investigator Cpl Ron MacDonald suggested distracted driving may be a contributor in a number of traffic fatalities.

Majority of Drivers Are Distracted

A recent series of articles published in the spring issue of The Safety Report shows distracted driving is a growing and deadly problem.

Distraction a Deadly Problem

The Canadian Auto Association reports that 80% of collisions and 65% of near crashes have some form of driver distraction as a contributing factor.

According to British Columbia RCMP, distracted driving was a contributing factor in 104 traffic fatalities in 2010.

Distracted Driving Equals Drunk Driving?

Very few of us would knowingly drive drunk. But most of us, from time to time, have engaged in behaviour that impairs our reaction time as much, or more, than driving drunk.

Studies have shown that using a cellphone while driving impairs your reaction time the same as having a blood-alcohol content of 0.08, the limit for being legally impaired.

Sending or receiving a text requires a driver to take their eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At highway speed of 100 km/hr a car will travel almost a 140 meters. The distance of 1.5 football fields!

Many Causes of Driver Distraction

While texting and cellphone use is a huge contributor to distract driving, only 18% of distracted driving fatalities occur because of cellphone use.

The other 82% are caused by a variety of other distractions, including:

• Eating and drinking;
• Putting on make-up or brushing your hair;
• Reading;
• Using a GPS or navigation systems; and • Adjusting the radio and/or an iPod, among others.

The fact is that any time you take your eyes off the road, even for a second, you are distracted and that distraction can lead to dangerous consequences.

A Personal Message

As a personal injury lawyer in Nova Scotia, I have seen countless cases of people needlessly injured or killed because of the distracted driving. But the message was brought home to me in a far more personal way recently when I met Joel Feldman and Dianne Anderson, the founders of

Joel’s and Dianne’s daughter Casey was a pedestrian killed by a distracted driver. In order to try to prevent other families from having to go through the same tragedy that they have to live with, Joel and Dianne started the non-profit organization I had the honour of meeting Joel and Dianne recently, and their passionate commitment to the cause of ending distracted driving is inspiring.

60 for Safety

As a result, I have joined 60 For Safety, a group of lawyers across North America who volunteer their time giving presentations to local schools, parent-teacher associations, civic groups and community organizations with the goal of educating the public about the dangers of distracted driving.

The goal of and other traffic-safety groups like (No to Distracted Driving), 60 For Safety, MADD Canada and the Canadian Auto Association, is to end needless deaths by helping Canadians understand what can happen if we don’t drive safely.

If you would like more information about or would like to arrange for a presentation at your school or community group you can contact me for more information.

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