Special Report: Texting While Driving
Published Thursday, October 15, 2009 6:09PM EDT
The term information superhighway has a whole new and scary meaning on Quebec roads.
Texting while driving is illegal and carries hefty fines, but that hasn't stopped many drivers from typing away.
The Quebec coroner's office believes texting at the wheel may have contributed to four fatal car crashes in the province last year.
U.S.researchers found that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash, making texting and driving even more dangerous than drunk driving.
One of the victims was 22-year-old Marie-Neige Mateau, who was killed in 2005 while texting her boyfriend in the Lafontaine tunnel.
She drove right into a stalled truck and died on impact.
Just after the crash, the coroner noted an unanswered text from her boyfriend.
'What are you doing? Get back to me,' said the message.
The coroner recommended a ban on cell phones while driving but while the law has changed, habits have not.
Bad habits die hard
Ali Hussain is one person who continually sends and receives text messages throughout the day.
Hundreds of short notes that he reads and replies to, even if he's behing the wheel.
"I know it's dangerous," said Hussain, but he feels that maintaining his active social life is worth the risk.
"It's not even like I want to do it, I'd rather wait, but the thing is it's a habit, it just happens," said Hussain.
When CTV reporters and researchers questioned drivers, they offered dozens of excuses.
"Clients, they want to know the answer right away."
"You want to answer your friends and you happen to be driving so you just do that anyways."
"It was important email that I received and I had to answer it right away."
Bad enough when people driving cars pay more attention to their phones than the road, it's devastating when bus drivers ignore their responsibility.
This year a bus driver in San Antonio, Texas failed to notice a traffic jam and plowed right into it.
Surveillance cameras on the bus showed that he spent the six minutes leading to the crash texting.
Practice in simulators doesn't help
Driving instructor Pierro Hirsch studies texting and driving in a simulator, and even with all his driving experience he's not very good at it.
He says texting at the wheel is like driving with a blindfold.
"If you were to take measurements of my stress level they'd be a lot higher than they should be," said Hirsch. "At 50 kilometres an hour I look at my phone for one second, I've travelled 14 metres without knowing what's in front of me."
CTV reporter Rob Lurie also sat down in the simulator and tried it out.
"I was positive that I could get away with it, and just as I was getting used to the simulator - a text," said Lurie.
As soon as he started to answer, Lurie crashed.
"I went again, and to be honest, I got so used to the simulation, I knew every time the man was about to cross the street, and I still hit him, three times," said Lurie.
Quebec's road safety task force says the laws are already in place, and frankly they don't have any new ideas to get drivers off the phone.
They are working on an awareness campaign for Quebec, similar to one in Wales, and hope graphically showing people the dangers of texting will have an impact.