Social Isolation and Pandemic Insecurities: Half of Canadian Drivers Are Tired and Stressed

Published: November 10, 2021

Social Isolation and Pandemic Insecurities: Half of Canadian Drivers Are Tired and Stressed

The latest road safety survey from Desjardins has uncovered concerning trends when it comes to the stress and fatigue level of Canadian drivers, and the cumulative effects are cause for alarm.

Stress, pandemic and dangers of driving fatigued
To say the pandemic has affected all Canadians would be an understatement. For many, stress and fatigue levels are definitely present which is what the latest survey has found. At least 1 in 2 Canadians said they felt stressed (50%) or tired (53%). When asked about their mental health, nearly two-thirds of drivers admitted the pandemic has affected their mental health, with the vast majority being affected negatively (54%).

Canadians cited social isolation (32%), insecurities associated with the pandemic (31%), personal situation (31%), financial concerns (30%) and professional concerns (27%) as the top 5 reasons for their stress and fatigue. When it comes to driving habits, over half (54%) revealed they had driven at least 4 hours before taking a rest. Also, a third of Canadians (33%) admitted having driven while fatigued in the past 12 months. More alarmingly, 1 in 8 (13%) admitted having fallen asleep at least once while driving in their lifetime.

According to a fact sheet released by the Traffic Injury Research Foundation (TIRF), fatigued driving can increase crash risk by causing inconsistent speed, frequent lane changes or weaving, sudden braking, failure to follow road signs, including traffic control devices.

“We are committed to promoting road safety to prevent collisions that cause injuries and deaths on our roads every year,” said Valérie Lavoie, President and Chief Operating Officer, Desjardins General Insurance Group. “Stress and fatigue have always been a risk factor for drivers, and the compounding effects of the pandemic have compelled us to contribute raising awareness of this issue.”

The impact of stress is clear: 40% of drivers admitted having “zoned out” while driving in the last 12 months. Driving on long roads (67%) and being stressed or concerned (48%) were listed as the top 2 reasons their mind wandered while driving. Unfortunately, 1 in 20 drivers admitted to being in a collision because they were absent-minded on the road.

“The problem with fatigued or drowsy driving is people believe they can predict when they will fall asleep, and this creates a false sense of security that they can control it when driving, explains Robyn Robertson, President & CEO of TIRF. “The reality is you can’t predict it, much like when you find yourself having fallen asleep while watching TV. The unpredictable nature of drifting off makes you and other road users around you extremely vulnerable to crashing, and the additional stress due to the pandemic compounds the problem.

Distracted Driving
This year, 67% of Canadians said they believe distracted driving is the biggest risk factor for drivers. In fact, it is now ranked as the number 1 risk factor, followed by drunk driving, which remains a top risk factor for 60% of Canadians. When it comes to distracted driving, the top 5 driving distractions reported by Canadians are:

  • The external environment (54%)
  • Console setting/infotainment system adjustments (40%)
  • Cellphones (38%)
  • Eating/Drinking (32%)
  • Passengers/children in the car (30%)

Alarmingly, when asked what would stop them from driving distracted, 42% said getting into a collision. More encouragingly, the influence of family and friends in promoting safer habits seems to have doubled from previous years. Nearly 1 in 4 of drivers said they would listen to advice from friends and family to stop them from driving distracted.

“Drivers who text while driving are up to 6 times more likely to be involved in a crash,” says Pamela Fuselli, President and CEO of Parachute. “They can cause injury to drivers, passengers and to other road users. We envision ending death on our roads and one step forward to achieve this goal is to make distracted driving as unacceptable as driving without a seat belt. Being a role model can help change the culture: for instance, parents have influence over their teens’ behaviour.”

Drug-impaired Driving
Although distracted and drunk driving continue to be top risk factors for drivers, drug-impaired driving was listed as the third largest risk factor for drivers, at 49%. When it comes to cannabis, 84% of Canadians believe that cannabis impairs the skills necessary to operate a motor vehicle. 2% of drivers admitted having driven under the influence of cannabis in the past 12 months. Although this may seem low, with millions of licensed drivers in Canada this percentage is significant cause for concern.

There is still a need for vigilance, education and awareness, as 78% of Canadians said we don’t have enough information about driving under the influence of drugs, compared to 69% in 2019.

Additional resources
Click here to download the full 2021 survey infographic/fact sheet
Fact Sheet on Fatigued Driving 
Drug-Impaired Driving Learning Centre 
Distracted Driving 
Vision Zero

The web panel survey was conducted in June 2021 by Ad Hoc Research for Desjardins among Canadians age 16 to 74. A total of 3,064 respondents were surveyed.

About Desjardins Group
Desjardins Group is the largest cooperative financial group in North America and the fifth largest cooperative financial group in the world, with assets of $389.3 billion. In 2020 it was ranked as one of the world’s Top 100 Employers by Forbes magazine. To meet the diverse needs of its members and clients, Desjardins offers a full range of products and services to individuals and businesses through its extensive distribution network, online platforms and subsidiaries across Canada. Ranked among the world’s strongest banks according to The Banker magazine, Desjardins has one of the highest capital ratios and credit ratings in the industry.