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Driving while texting? Not so smart, say North Van teens

December 19, 2019
​By Jane Seyd, North Shore News

Carson Graham Grade 11 student Emma Suttle gets a failing grade as she tries texting and driving on a simulator, under the watch of RCMP Const. Kim Lutz. Photo by Paul McGrath, North Shore News


Earlier this month, teens in North Vancouver found out just how uncool driving and texting can be with the help of an ICBC driving simulator.

Teens at both Carson Graham and Sutherland secondary schools got behind the virtual wheel to test out what happens to reaction time when a driver is distracted by texting.

While, “driving” on the simulator, teens navigated busy city streets trying to obey road signs and watch out for pedestrians while responding to text messages. For most, the experiment didn’t go well.

The events, put on by the North Vancouver RCMP and ICBC, are a way to show teens the need to focus on the road while driving, said Sgt. Peter DeVries, spokesman for the North Vancouver RCMP.

“Statistics suggest that young drivers are among higher risk categories,” said DeVries. “So we're getting to them young to try to prevent them developing bad driving habits as they're becoming new drivers.”

“More than one in four fatal crashes on B.C. roads involves distracted driving,” said Harvey Kooner, local ICBC road safety coordinator.

According to ICBC, drivers are five times more likely to crash if holding a hand-held phone while driving. In fact, research shows taking your eyes off the road for as little as two seconds is strongly correlated with crashing, according to ICBC.

Many teens say they don’t drive and text. “I’d be way too scared,” said Julia Geatros, 16.

But they say they’ve observed plenty of other people texting in traffic. One telltale sign: “They’re looking down at their laps,” said Georgia Storey, 16.

According to a survey conducted by Ipsos Reid on behalf of ICBC in December 2018, 95 per cent of drivers recognize distracted driving has led to an increase in crashes, and 96 per cent consider texting while driving to be risky.

Yet, 33 per cent of drivers admit they use their phone at least one out of every 10 trips they take.

Teens also got to try out “fatal vision” goggles with the RCMP, meant to simulate how difficult it is to pass a roadside sobriety test of walking a straight line while drunk.

“It’s really challenging,” said Michelle Taylor, 16, who tried out the goggles at Carson Graham. “It makes you dizzy and lose your balance.”

Police and ICBC have kicked off CounterAttack campaigns for the month of December, featuring stepped up enforcement of drunk driving.

According to ICBC, 24 per cent of fatal crashes are related to impaired driving.