Montreal

Quebec highway fatalities up in 2017, with distracted driving 2nd-highest cause

Distracted driving has bumped out driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol as the second-most common cause of fatal collisions on Quebec highways, according to end-of-year figures released by la Sûreté du Québec.

'Speak up,' SQ warns young people, after steep increase in number of passengers aged 16 to 24 killed last year

Nearly 10 per cent of the fatal accidents on Quebec roads in 2017 were caused by drivers distracted by their cellphones or other devices. That was the second-highest cause of accidents, after speeding.

Distracted driving has bumped out driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol as the second-most common cause of fatal collisions on Quebec highways, according to end-of-year figures released by la Sûreté du Québec.

Speeding is still the number one killer on Quebec's roads, responsible for one in three fatal collisions in Quebec in 2017, although the report shows a 13 per cent decrease in deaths caused by speeding, from 89 deaths in 2016 to 76 last year.

The number of fatal collisions went up slightly in 2017 compared to 2016, from 240 to 244. However, the actual death toll climbed 3.5 per cent, for a total of 269 deaths last year.

Absent-minded driving up

Nearly one in ten fatalities last year — a total of 24 deaths — were caused by distracted driving, the SQ report says.

"I think it's important for people to understand, that are on the road that distracted driving is not just having a cell phone," said SQ spokesperson Lt. Jason Allard in an interview.

Trying to find a station on the radio, talking on the phone, reading a book and putting on makeup all fall under the distracted driving umbrella, he said.

Anything that takes your eyes off the road should be avoided, he said.

"Eating a Big Mac and holding a soft drink while driving can be a distraction, as well."

Motorists should plan their trip in advance, and make sure to give themselves enough time to get where they're going, to avoid speeding, Allard advised.

Speak up, SQ tells young people

One startling statistic in the 2017 fatalities report: after four years on the decline, the number of people between the ages of 16 and 24 who died in road collisions jumped 46 per cent, from 39 victims in 2016 to 57 last year.

Fifteen of those victims were passengers.

Police are urging young people to verbalize their concern when they're riding with adults or peers who are driving recklessly — or get out of the car.

"You have to speak up," Allard said.

"If you combine a lack of experience [with] speeding, [with] alcohol or drugs, absolutely, you have a cocktail that can be very bad."

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