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Calgary, why are we still distracted driving?

Metro columnist Mike Morrison, an admitted occasional distracted driver, says it's just not worth it.

With 26,000 tickets issued in Calgary alone, Metro columnist Mike Morrison is wondering why the behaviour is still so widespread.

Metro Calgary File Photo

With 26,000 tickets issued in Calgary alone, Metro columnist Mike Morrison is wondering why the behaviour is still so widespread.

The cell phone has changed the way we live.

It’s our computer, camera, game system, oh and it’s also our phone. Yeah, that sound you hear, that’s ringing. Strange right? But the cell phone is also dangerous.

No, I’m not talking about bad Tindr dates, I’m talking about distracted driving. And if the 27,000 distracted driving tickets issued annually in Alberta are any indication, we’re still not getting the non-text message. Here in Calgary, police have handed out 26,000 tickets alone since distracted driving laws were introduced in 2011. In fact, city police say that number is only going up.

So why are we doing it? And I say “we” because I would be lying if I said I didn’t do it. I tell myself I’m not the problem because I only do it at red lights, which yes, is still against the law.

Collectively we’ve convinced ourselves that checking our phones at red lights isn’t dangerous. Sort of in the same way we’ve convinced ourselves that everyone is a bad driver…except for us. The fact of the matter is it really does only take a split second for lives to be changed forever. Even if you’re stopped at a red light.

In fact, distracted driving is really no different than smoking, which we know is to blame for at least 37,000 deaths a year in Canada. We also know that smoking is related to more than 85 per cent of all lung cancer cases. But 19 per cent of Albertans still smoke anyway. We know that distracted driving is dangerous. Distracted drivers are three times more likely to be in a crash than attentive drivers. We are all aware of the risks, yet we do it. I do it, you do it.

The addiction to social media is definitely a major factor, especially for me.

Notifications, mentions, likes and retweets all contribute to a euphoric feeling that many of us have become addicted to. I’ve stayed away from drugs, but I’m beginning to think I can relate to that “need” users often talk about.

When we’re driving, or even when we’re stopped at a red light, we look to our phones, much like some people look for a fix or a hit. But instead of drugs, we’re looking for attention. Sometimes I’m not sure which is more dangerous.

Right now the fine for being caught using your phone behind the wheel is $287, which to me seems way too low. The NDP government has promised to add three demerits to the fine, but I’m not sure even that will be enough. Sadly, I think the effects of distracted driving have to be witnessed, they have to be felt.

Maybe when we lose something, maybe the most important thing, maybe then we’ll listen.

Until then, good luck out there.

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