Gracie loves my Jeep.
She loves any vehicle, really – especially ones that deliver her black-and-tan self to the Clayton off-leash park or the Cloverdale McDonald’s for a cup of vanilla soft-serve. Gracie also loves the front seat, and she’s stubborn, as most one-year-old mini-dachshunds would be.
And I love to spoil my Gracie.
All of this is a terrible combination, especially for someone who is about to espouse to you the dangers of distracted driving.
And I will have to admit, there has been a time or two I have driven the few blocks from doggie daycare (which I now call school since that she is eight in people years) with my little princess on my lap, her snout either hanging out the door or smearing up my newly cleaned window.
Bad idea – I know, I know. Gracie is small but it doesn’t matter. It’s not safe for anyone – me, her or other people on the road. And, to think, before I became a dog person, I used to silently cuss out drivers for doing the same thing.
As drivers, we display some curious habits, don’t we? Some are gross. Some are potentially distracting. Many are downright dangerous.
Today, it’s become alarmingly easy for our attention to sway while behind the wheel. We have smart phones, pets, $10 lattes, GPS screens and more. And when I say more, boy do I mean more.
Just ask Constable Alex Berube, an RCMP media relations officer with Greater Victoria’s West Shore detachment.
“We see, more often than you would think, people eating full-on meals, lunch or breakfast, with cutlery and everything,” Berube told Black Press Media’s Dawn Gibson. “It’s scary because you will see them steering with their knee, holding a cereal bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other.”
I’ve seen a woman do this too, a few months ago on 64th Avenue.
But wait. It gets worse.
On March 15, Gibson reported, West Shore RCMP tweeted that they stopped a vehicle that was being driven erratically, and the driver explained it was because she was removing her bra.
Berube told Black Press he’s often seen men shaving their faces, women doing their makeup, and people reading books while driving.
“It’s not just a brochure or a magazine either, it’s been full-on novels.”
While some may find these stories somewhat amusing, it’s important to remember how dangerous these behaviours are.
On Sunday, three people, including a five-year-old girl, were sent to hospital in what police say may be a tragic case of distracted driving.
Surrey RCMP said an SUV drove up onto the sidewalk in Strawberry Hill and hit three people in front of a bus stop. Police said the driver of the vehicle is a Class 7 (learner) who was under supervision at the time of the crash.
Distracted driving is one of the largest causes of collisions, injuries, and deaths on Canada’s roads. The Canadian Automobile Association says people who drive distracted are eight times more likely to be in a crash or near crash event compared with non-distracted drivers.
And stats suggest distracted driving is responsible for 22 per cent of fatal car accidents involving people between 16 and 21, or one in five youth killed in crashes every year.
Of course, the most common reason for people taking their eyes off the road is due to cellphones.
Canadians say that texting while driving is one of the biggest threats to their personal safety on the road, CAA reported in 2020. And the National Safety Council said in 2019, mobile phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes every year.
We should all know by now that phones are a distraction to drivers. But back to our pets – what exactly are the rules about having them in the car?
Police say that having pets, objects and passengers obstruct a driver’s view out the front or side windows is considered a distraction.
Having a large dog in the passenger seat blocking the window could lead to a ticket for driving while the view is obstructed – an infraction that brings a $109 fine and three penalty points. And a driver trying to control a pet running around in the vehicle may receive a $368 ticket for driving without due care and attention.
That would buy a whole lot of kibble and kong treats.
Sorry Gracie, from now on, you’re buckled up in the back seat. Don’t worry, Dad will still get you your ice cream.
Beau Simpson is editor of the Surrey Now-Leader. For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.