Talking or texting on the cellphone isn’t the only bad habit that should be avoided while driving, says Red Deer RCMP.
Using smartphones’ navigational assistance can also be dangerous, especially as residents prepare for the upcoming long weekend, which often involves travel to unfamiliar places.
The Alberta Motor Association says GPS use is forgotten in the discussion about distracted driving, noting that programming an address into an app can take up to 40 seconds.
“Like any electronic device, a GPS can be distracting if not used in the proper way,” said Red Deer RCMP Sgt. Mike Zufferli.
“Our laws are pretty specific: if you’re programming a GPS, you have to be parked and not in the roadway.
“The best thing to do is set your location before you leave, and if something goes wrong, pull over, find a parking lot and reprogram the GPS.”
Jeff Kasbrick, the AMA’s vice-president of government and stakeholder relations, said the risks of GPS programming need to be more of a focus.
“Taking your eyes off the road for even two seconds, whether it’s for a text message or using your GPS, can double the likelihood of a crash,” said Kasbrick.
Just 11 of last year’s 23,546 distracted driving convictions were categorized as GPS related. But, with many drivers using their phones for navigation, it’s likely infractions are being categorized alongside handheld communication offences, which amounted to 18,659 in 2018, said the AMA in a press release.
“Whether it’s texting, shuffling through your latest playlist, or tinkering with your GPS, the message remains the same: anything that distracts from the task of driving puts you – and everyone else on the road – at risk,” Kasbrick said.
It’s especially important for drivers to keep their eyes on the road during the upcoming long weekend, Zufferli added.
“Everyone wants to go out and enjoy our Canadian summers, because they’re short, so it’s really important people drive within their abilities, know their vehicle’s capabilities, especially if they’re towing a large trailer, and be patient.”
Research in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention finds fatal collisions during Alberta’s holiday periods increase by an average of 18 per cent, according to the AMA.