Use of electronic communication devices (ECD) by Canadian drivers in urban areas

Jonah, B., Todd, V.
Transportation Research Board

The objective of this study was to assess whether legislation prohibiting handheld cell phone use while driving that was passed in most Canadian jurisdictions had an effect on driver behaviour and prevented the use of these devices while driving. This observational survey was conducted at 286 urban sites across Canada in September 2012. A total of 70,686 drivers of light duty vehicles were observed while they were stopped at a traffic light or a stop sign. Their use of a handheld electronic communication device (ECD) was recorded in conjunction with the type of usage (i.e., speaking, typing, both), estimated driver age and gender, number of passengers in the vehicle, and type of vehicle. The data was weighted to obtain estimates of ECD use, the percentage of drivers using ECDs, and the type of use. Findings were compared to the results of the same survey conducted previously.

Key findings included:

  • An estimated 4.6% (± 0.5) of the drivers used an ECD, and ranged from 1.3% to 7.0% across jurisdictions. Nationally, the use of handheld ECDs for talking was 61% lower in 2012 than that observed in 2007.
  • The use of ECDs was more frequent among young drivers (<25 years of age), drivers of light trucks, drivers without passengers, and somewhat more by female drivers.
  • ECDs were used for talking by 2.3% of drivers and for typing by 1.7% of drivers.

A detailed analysis of drivers talking on ECDs before and after laws prohibiting their use came into effect revealed that usage was significantly lower after the law in nine jurisdictions. Overall results showed that ECD use had declined in the majority of jurisdictions that have put legislation in place to prohibit use. Analyses revealed that this relationship was statistically significant.

Jonah, B., & Todd, V. (2014). Use of Electronic Communication Devices by Canadian Drivers in Urban Areas. In Transportation Research Board 93rd Annual Meeting (No. 14-1129).