A new survey shows distracted driving continues to be a significant risk on Canadian roads.
According to the study by Desjardins Group, 80 per cent of Canadians regularly see distracted drivers, but only 21 per cent admitted to using their phones while behind the wheel in the past year.
"I think that might be low," said spokesperson John Bordignon. "We do tend to have some people, when they do surveys where it shows they might show some bad behaviour, they don't tend to be 100 per cent truthful."
Bordignon said police organizations across the country now believe it is a bigger problem than impaired driving.
The youngest driving demographic is most likely to admit to the risky habit. Those 16-24 are twice as likely to say they use their smartphone while driving, and Bordignon said they're not just putting themselves in danger.
"A lot of people fail to remember you have passengers in the car, you have pedestrians you're sharing the road areas with, other cars and cyclists," he told NEWS 95.7's The Sheldon MacLeod Show. "So the ramifications to distracted driving are just enormous."
The most surprising part of the survey for Bordignon was that people appear to fear getting caught (52 per cent of Nova Scotians) more than getting into a crash (44 per cent).
"I would have thought that those numbers would be reversed but apparently more people are scared of fines and insurance rates than they are about property damage or even killing someone."
Over two-thirds of Nova Scotians think penalties aren't strong enough to curtail the dangerous behaviour and a growing number of people want penalties to be as strict as they are for impaired driving.
Bordignon said it took years for impaired driving to become stigmatized. He thinks a similar awareness of the consequences of distracted driving is the key to making our roads safer.
"We need more and more people to understand the damage this can do, and let people understand it's socially unacceptable."