Sending a text message while behind the wheel and other forms of distracted driving can be devastating to families, a group of Ontario teens heard Monday as part of a new national awareness campaign called #PracticeSafeText.
Kathryn Field, whose 17-year-old son, Josh, died five years ago in a car accident caused by distracted driving, shared her family’s story with high school students in Nepean, Ont., on Monday along with federal Minister of Transport Lisa Raitt and Laureen Harper, the wife of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
"It just took Josh no more than a second to try and pull that cellphone out," Field said.
Field described her son as a funny, humble teenager who had started flying lessons shortly before his death. The family found out after Josh’s death that he’d been voted his class's valedictorian.
"If he’d had more knowledge about the result of answering, maybe he wouldn’t have," Field said in a video message released as part of the campaign.
In Canada, distracted driving contributes to more serious injuries than impaired driving or speeding, according to Parachute, an injury-prevention charity that launched its own campaign Monday called Stop the Clock, which focuses on preventable injuries.
The group says driver distraction is a factor in between 15 per cent and 19 per cent of fatal collisions involving teen drivers.
Canadians between the ages of 16 and 19 are at higher risk of death per kilometre than all other age groups.
Resist the urge to grab your phone
"The next time you hear the ding go off [and go] to grab your phone, don't do it," Raitt advised the students, encouraging them to pledge not to call or text and drive. "And you know what, that text may be really important but doesn't have to go right now."
The Ontario Provincial Police say there were 78 distracted-driving deaths in the province in 2013.
Parachute says preventable injuries kill more young people than all other causes of death combined in Canada and cost $20 billion a year.
Brain injury is the leading cause of death and disability for people under the age of 44, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A survey of people with acquired brain injuries by the Ontario Brain Injury Association suggests 40 per cent of those surveyed sustained their brain injury as a result of an automobile collision.