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Canadians Dislike Distracted Driving, But Most Do It Anyway, Poll Suggests

Canada, it seems, is being driven to distraction behind the wheel — and many Canadians may not even realize it.

That’s according to a new poll by Leger Marketing that suggests three out of every four Canadian motorists is focusing on something other than the task at hand while driving.

But the poll, commissioned by insurance company Allstate Canada, also found that respondents had a dramatically narrow view of what they considered to be driving while distracted.

While nearly 90 per cent of the poll’s 1,600 respondents had a negative view of texting while driving, fewer than 20 per cent saw adjusting the radio as a distraction, the company said in a release.

“Our research shows that Canadians do not fully understand what is considered to be a distraction while driving and continue to engage in those dangerous behaviours,” said spokeswoman Saskia Matheson.

Some 58 per cent of respondents admitted to eating or drinking while driving, while only 29 per cent said they saw such behaviour in a negative light when exhibited by others. Sixty per cent admitted to adjusting their radio or iPod behind the wheel, while only 19 per cent saw that as a problem.

According to Allstate’s own statistics, eight out of every 10 collisions in Canada are caused by distracted driving. Taking one’s eyes off the road for five seconds while driving at 90 km/h is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field completely blind, the company said.

Fully 25 per cent of respondents said they or someone they knew had been in an accident caused by a distracted driver; that number jumped to 37 per cent in the 18-24 age bracket.

Allstate defines distracted driving as operating a vehicle while being subjected to visual, manual or cognitive distractions — everything from texting on a cellphone or changing a CD to eating, using a GPS, applying makeup or being pre-occupied with other passengers.

The survey, conducted in late July using Leger’s online Internet panel, carries a margin of error that’s considered equivalent to plus or minus 2.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.

On Monday, the company hosted a Driving Challenge in Calgary, where teens from local high schools participated in a series of driving challenges while accompanied by an instructor to learn first-hand the dangers of distracted driving.