August 2015

Manitoba Public Insurance asks: Would you want a text to be your last words?

BY Kathleen Hagan


Distracted driving is a dangerous and deadly problem. Through its ‘Your Last Words’ anti-distracted driving campaign, Manitoba Public Insurance (MPI) is raising awareness about the dangers of texting while behind the wheel.

Last September, the MPI took this campaign to the next level when it unveiled a texting and driving simulator that demonstrates just how hard it is to perform these two tasks simultaneously. The simulator, produced by Winnipeg-based developer Tactica Interactive, has two versions: an online version and an event version that is held at venues throughout Manitoba.

Manitoba Public Insurance’s texting and driving simulator shows citizens how difficult it is to perform these two tasks simultaneously.

“We have a vested interest in trying to reduce fatalities and casualties on our roadways,” says Brian Smiley, media relations coordinator at MPI. “Many of the people who have tried the simulator admitted that they do text and drive, although most said they do so when stopped at a red light or when traffic is crawling—not at highway speeds. We’re focused on trying to raise awareness of how dangerous this is to discourage them from doing it altogether.”

The online version of the texting and driving simulator is designed to be like a typical driving experience, with the user controlling an onscreen vehicle from his or her keyboard. The event version of the simulator is a bit more robust, allowing citizens to get into a “cockpit” to sit behind a steering wheel and use gas and brake pedals. To date, it has visited 38 locations and reached almost 6,000 people.

“In this safe and controlled environment, the public is able to get engaged and experience how it’s impossible to text and drive safely,” Smiley says. “The simulator is designed to be challenging, and it presents users with life-like situations such as a vehicle coming at them head-on or a pedestrian walking out in front of them. It also simulates traveling at highway speeds up to 100 kph. It could be deadly to be texting in these situations.”

In an effort to engage a younger audience, the simulator also has been introduced and incorporated into MPI’s high school driver education program. About 12,000 students take the program each year in 170 Manitoba high schools. Students discuss distracted driving in the classroom, and they also participate online under the direction of their instructor. Many students also will utilize the online version of the simulator when at home.

Smiley says he’s heard encouraging feedback about the simulator thus far—people have been impressed with the technology, and others have pledged to put their phones to the side while driving. Still, he says, “We know we have a lot of work left to do.”


Risky Behavior

In Manitoba, it is illegal to use a hand-held electronic device while driving. But that doesn’t stop many drivers. Consider these facts:


Almost 5,000 Manitobans are convicted each year for using a hand-held electronic device while driving.


Every year, 25 people die and more than 800 are injured in crashes linked to distracted driving in Manitoba.


Almost 9 in 10 Manitobans believe people using hand-held cellphones while driving is a serious problem.


On average, one in four road fatalities are linked to distracted driving in Manitoba.