Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to speak to an issue I care deeply about. It is great to have the privilege to speak to Bill C-373 in this place today. It is our job to work hard to make Canada a better and safer place to live. We hear all too often about the tragedies that occur because of distracted and impaired driving.
This is a debate that is important to each and every Canadian. No riding is immune to the devastation caused by distracted and impaired driving. We know that distracted driving occurs frequently in Canada.
Bill C-373 focuses on hand-held electronic devices, such as cellphones, which is an important issue. However, it is not comprehensive of all factors that go into distracted driving.
Distracted driving is not just an issue of texting behind the wheel; it is much more than that. The RCMP define distracted driving as a form of impaired driving as a driver's judgment is compromised when the driver is not fully focused on the road. This includes talking on a cellphone, texting, and reading, whether that be books, maps, or newspapers. Distracted driving also includes using a GPS, watching videos or movies, eating, drinking, smoking, and personal grooming. Even talking to passengers and driving while tired, either mentally or physically, can be forms of distracted driving.
We need to focus on the statistics here, because they are alarming.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to cause injury. Distracted driving is now the number one risk on Canadian roads, contributing to eight in 10 collisions, according to the CAA.
Further evidence according to the Government of Ontario says that one person is injured in a distracted driving collision every half hour. Even when drivers use a hands-free phone, they are less aware of the traffic around them. They tend to react more slowly to a critical event, or they may not detect the danger at all. One study highlighted that in 80% of collisions, the driver had looked away from the road three seconds prior to the crash. The take-away from all of these statistics is simple: distracted driving is a serious issue that must be addressed.
When it comes to texting and driving, there are various statistics. According to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash or near crash event compared to non-distracted drivers. This study also highlighted that while driving at 90 kilometres per hour, a driver checking a text for five seconds has travelled the length of a football field without looking. A study from the National Safety Council said that about 26% of all car crashes involve phone use, including hands-free phone use. The same study estimates that drivers using phones look at but fail to see up to 50% of the material in their driving environment.
In my riding, the intersection at Highway 7 and McCowan Road was the site of 112 crashes in 2016. The government should be doing more to reduce driver fatalities in every instance, since driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol poses just as much, if not more, of a risk to Canadians as driving while using a cellphone.
A 2017 study conducted by MADD showed that cannabis was the leading cause of fatal drug-related crashes in eight provinces and was responsible for 530 deaths nationwide. We know drugs can affect a driver's judgment, reaction time, and decision-making skills. Canadians are not entirely aware of the risks that driving while high poses.
According to a Health Canada survey, of respondents who had consumed cannabis in 2017, 39% admitted to driving within two hours of consumption, and only 2% reported being stopped by police as a result of driving under the influence.
I would like to touch on some further statistics to highlight the issue of distracted driving.
Bill C-373 is an excellent example of the way road safety in Canada can be improved. However, why is it that the Liberals are addressing this one aspect while continuing to promote their plan to make marijuana legal without properly considering the effects it will have on drug-impaired driving occurrences? According to the RCMP, driver distraction is a factor in about four million motor vehicle crashes in North America each year. Further, according to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, distraction was a factor in nearly six out of 10 moderate to severe teen crashes. Distracted driving is dangerous and is hurting our children. The paradox I want to highlight here is that the government would like to consult with law enforcement officials to make recommendations on this issue of distracted driving but was fine ignoring the advice of law enforcement when it came to developing an effective prevention and detection strategy to deal with drug-impaired driving. Both distracted driving and impaired driving pose very real dangers and both should be taken seriously.
The Liberal government supported legislation that imposed stricter fines and penalties on drivers impaired by alcohol, yet it has failed to do so when it comes to the same risks posed by drivers impaired by cannabis. In testimony to the justice committee, Students Against Drunk Driving's community liaison Arthur Lee made the point that students told him “the general sentiment among their peer groups was that driving under the influence of marijuana was—quote—'better' than being impaired by alcohol.” How will this misconception ever change if the Liberal government constantly prioritizes road safety in every other aspect except when it comes to properly dealing with the drug it intends to legalize?
According to the Government of Canada, economic losses caused by traffic collision-related health care costs and lost productivity are at least $10 billion annually. That is about 1% of Canada's GDP. According to the Traffic Injury Research Foundation, the economic and social consequences of road crashes in Canada are estimated to be $25 billion per year, including direct and indirect costs.
Bill C-373 fails to mention or consider the territories in its text as currently written. At this time, it only makes mention of the provinces. The penalties for distracted driving vary immensely between the provinces and territories. A mixture of demerit points and cash fines is a common standard of practice to deter Canadians from committing this offence. Nunavut is the only province or territory in Canada that does not have penalties put in place as a measure to discourage distracted drivers.
From all of these statistics, we can see there is a definite need to address the concern of distracted driving. The provinces are looking for federal leadership here, and we need to take this seriously.