Manitoba highways are expected to be busy this weekend and as we get ready for possible travel, no one wants to see a tragedy occur on the roadways. The combination of construction all across the region, people wanting to get to their destination quickly, plenty of vehicles towing boats and trailers along with more traffic in general results in a higher volume of mishaps on summer long weekends.

Distracted driving is one issue that can be avoided however CAA Manitoba manager of Government and Community Relations Ewald Friesen says their annual surveys on distracted driving reveal the problem is becoming more of an issue. 

"Our most recent one that we put out revealed some interesting behaviours on the road and, also, some very not surprising feelings that Manitobans expressed about the issue of distracted driving. The big one is, of course, that 89  per cent of Manitobans feel somewhat or very concerned about distracted driving now. That will likely not come as a major, major concern for many folks, because, obviously, nobody likes to see this kind of stuff."

He notes the interesting part is that their survey asked how often when people were asked how often they violate the law, 51 per cent of Manitobans said that they met the criteria. 

"Many of us still do it. We also noticed that one of the things that we need to discuss is what constitutes distracted driving. It can be holding your phone. If you're caught holding your phone, that would be distracted driving. That comes with some very serious penalties. For instance, you could get a $672 fine for distracted driving, but there are also other behaviours that we all engage in. We're just asking folks to be conscious of these types of behaviours."

Friesen says grooming yourself by applying makeup, for instance, or adjusting your hair, slowing down to look at an accident, wearing your headphones while driving, eating or drinking, and adjusting the music or the temperature on your console fits the criteria.

"Detailed conversations with other passengers can constitute distracted driving. As vehicles get more and more complicated, there are more and more distractions as there are apps. Apps light up and ding at you. there are more and more distractions to be had on the road. What your friends here at CAA are asking folks to do is very simple to mitigate distracted driving issues. The first one is, before you get onto the road, send that text, adjust your temperature, adjust your podcast, and get things going before you head out."

He adds a passenger in your car could hold your phone for you, and do the navigating so that you can keep your eyes focused on the road. 

"The other thing is that the consequences are real. There are demerits to be had. There are fines to be paid if you are caught distracted driving. Recently, MPI released some traffic fatality data. The traffic fatality data has clearly indicated that distracted driving is the number one contributing factor to fatalities on the road, outpacing even impaired driving. This is something we need to bear in mind as we're heading into the summer season, to cottages, and on road trips. Let's do our level best to make sure that who's ever driving this car is keep staying focused on."

CAA says they're not in the business of telling people what to do, but they like to educate on behavioural change.

"Driving is fun and we all like like to do it. But as cars cater to our whims and our wishes, and as everybody has a cell phone in their pocket, just put it away for the time that we need to focus on the road."