When in control of a motor vehicle, a driver’s attention needs to be focused on controlling the vehicle and preventing crashes. Secondary activities like eating, talking to passengers, and talking or texting on mobile devices (e.g., cell phones or smartphones) can distract a driver’s attention from the driving task. These distractions can decrease a driver’s awareness of the road environment and/or other road users and lead to potentially critical delays in recognizing and responding to driving risks.
In 2021, police officers investigating collisions reported that about one in every five fatal collisions involved driver distraction or inattention according to Transport Canada’s National Collision Database (NDDC).  According to Transport Canada’s Canadian Motor Vehicle Traffic Collision Statistics, 19.7% of fatal collisions in 2021 were attributed to distraction. An observational survey across Canada in 2016 and 2017 found that 2.9 percent of drivers stopped at intersections were using handheld mobile phones, an increase of about 25 percent since an earlier survey in 2012-2013.
According to self-reported data in 2020, 31.5 percent of Canadians reported that they often talked on their hands-free phone while driving. Thirteen percent indicated they had often talked on their handheld phone while driving and 11 percent reported they had often texted on their handheld phone while driving. More information on distracted driving statistics can be found at the Distracted driving publications in TIRF: Distracted driving report
All three types of reported cell phone activity had increased since a 2010 survey.
All provinces and territories in Canada have laws prohibiting the use of handheld mobile phones while driving. The police conduct periodic enforcement campaigns across Canada to deter handheld phone use by drivers. Depending on the jurisdiction, fines vary from $615 to $1000 on conviction and drivers can receive demerit points on their driving record. In some jurisdictions, offenders can also have their licence suspended for several days.
There are also various awareness campaigns by governments and non-governmental organizations to inform drivers about the risks of cell phone use such as Leave the Phone Alone (https://www.leavethephonealone.ca/en/take-the-pledge) and the Traffic Injury Research Foundation’s Drop It And Drive® program (www.diad.tirf.ca).
Technology is being developed to disable the mobile phone while driving, or to answer incoming calls or texts with a message to callers that the person is currently driving/unavailable.
For more information about distracted driving see: