Distracted driving on B.C. roads a huge issue

Overconfidence also impacts ability to drive safely

The New Westminster-based Justice Institute of B.C. recently hired Allan Lamb as associate director of its traffic education centre.

Lamb brings 36 years of experience in road safety to his new role. Previously, he managed ICBC's road safety programs and worked as a police officer.

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"I've been asked to come and manage the Justice Institute's road safety programs," Lamb told The Record.

The Justice Institute trains law-enforcement officers, firefighters and paramedics on how to drive safely. The institute also offers motorcycle-driving instruction for the general public.

Lamb weighs in for Record readers on some of the common driving mistakes people make on B.C. roads.

"I also think that things such as distracted driving and driving impaired are very, very important issues," he says. "I also think that we are often far too confident in our abilities to drive safely. Research has shown that about two-thirds of us feel we are superior drivers than other people."

There is a general sense of "complacency toward road safety," Lamb says.

"I think from an observer's point of view, we have a very high threshold for the number of people being injured and killed in traffic crashes," he says.

Lamb notes that on average, 28 people are killed every month in our province in a traffic crash.

"Most people know that it's kind of in that area of significance, and yet they're not alarmed by (it)," he says. "I think our acceptance of the carnage on the road is far too high, and it's also always somebody else's issue and rarely my issue."

Transport Canada estimates road crashes cost our province $8.8 billion every year, Lamb explains.

"So we are killing each other, and it's costing us an awful lot of money," he said, adding that 98 per cent of all of those crashes are avoidable.

Driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol continues to be a problem. In a roadside check in Vancouver earlier this year, in July, police nabbed 50 per cent more impaired drivers compared to the same weekend last year.

"We are dealing with people who have issues with alcoholism and drug use, so it doesn't shock me at all that we have very high blood-alcohol concentration levels. And it doesn't surprise me that impaired drivers kill two of us every week in our province," he says.

Lamb urges the public to not allow their friends and

family to drive if they suspect they are impaired.

Laws banning the public from texting while driving that were introduced more than a year ago have made a difference on the number of people playing with their phone, but some jurisdictions are still reporting up to 40 per cent of their serious crashes are the result of distracted driving, Lamb says.

Lamb says drivers should avoid hands-free devices because it's the conversation that's distracting. It's different than two people sitting in a car chatting, he says.

"With two people you have four eyes on the road," Lamb says. "I believe that, indeed, hands-free technology is creating a false sense of security."

It's not just the cell-phone that can be a distraction - anything - changing a CD, adjusting a mirror, etc., anything that takes a driver's eyes off the road is a concern.

"It's about 100 per cent focus on what's in front of you," Lamb says.

For more information about the Justice Institute, visit www.jibc.ca.


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