Near miss leads to call for distracted driving law in Nunavut

An Iqaluit mother is raising concerns after she says she was almost hit by a driver who was distracted by her phone. Nunavut remains the only jurisdiction in Canada without distracted driving laws.

Phone-using truck driver nearly hit her vehicle head on: Nadine O'Dell

Nadine O'Dell of Iqaluit says she was driving with her five-month-old baby in the backseat when they were nearly hit head-on by a driver who was texting. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)

An Iqaluit mother is raising concerns after she says she was almost hit by a driver who was distracted by her phone.

Nunavut is the only place in Canada without a law against distracted driving.

Nadine O'Dell says she was on her way home on the Plateau earlier this week, with her five-month-old baby in the backseat, when a truck veered into her lane and kept driving toward her head on.

The road where the accident nearly happened. (Vincent Desrosiers/CBC)
She says the truck finally swerved back into its lane, missing her by inches. 

As the truck drove away, O'Dell says she saw the driver was looking at her phone.

It's possible the driver in O'Dell's story wouldn't face any fines​, because Nunavut has no distracted driving laws.

8 out of 10 collisions caused by distraction

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says eight out of 10 collisions in Canada are caused by some kind of distraction.

Bill Adams, a vice president of the Insurance Bureau of Canada, says education is the best way to put a stop to it.

"It's not so much when you're having a phone conversation, you're holding a phone," he says. "It's the fact that your mind, your cognitive engagement, is focused on the phone more and less on the driving and all the things you should be looking at." 

Adams says provincial and territorial legislation are also deterrents. 

In the Northwest Territories, drivers could face a $322 penalty. In Yukon, it's a $250 fine and drivers get three demerit points.

Some in Iqaluit feel it might be time to look at similar legislation, especially as the city grows and has more vehicles on its roads.

Iqaluit's wireless connectivity growing

Stephen Mansell, chair of Iqaluit's Public Safety committee, says it's not just about the number of cars.

"We've got the 3G now, and the smartphones that can do all sorts of fancy stuff. You've got an entertainment device in your pocket, so we really need to make sure people are paying attention to their driving."

He says the city could enact a bylaw if there are no territorial laws.

Meanwhile, O'Dell has a message for Iqaluit drivers.

"Anywhere you need to go in town only takes five minutes," she said. "Put your phone in your pocket, your purse. Wait until you get there.

"Nothing can be as important as the safety of other people."

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