Flattened pylons littered the parking lot like orange Frisbees in the wake of a distracted driving demonstration in Guelph, Ont., earlier this summer.

Wayne Pitman Ford and Guelph Police took local media on a zig-zag tour of a high school parking lot to demonstrate the dangers of distracted driving, in particular texting while driving.

The media was invited to drive a Ford Fusion through a pylon-lined course two times. In the first instance, they drove with hands on the wheel and eyes on the road; in the second, they drove while texting. Media was asked to type out “Texting while driving is really a no-win situation,” while steering the course.

In the words of Guelph Mercury reporter Tony Saxon, “I cruised through the Bishop Macdonell Catholic High School parking lot Thursday morning like it was bumper cars at the Acton Fall Fair. I swerved, I cursed, I sent plastic orange cones skittering across the asphalt, pinning at least one beneath the car for a few seconds.”

His conclusion: “Point taken.” And it’s that point that Guelph Police Chief Bryan Larkin wants to drive home.

A distracted driver is a dangerous driver.

The use of handheld devices while driving is against the law in Ontario and in many other provinces. The force is primarily worried about texting behind the wheel, but the chief said even a dog bouncing around inside is a hazard.

“The power of this event is that local media actually see how poorly they drive when they’re distracted,” said Wayne Bricknell, President of Wayne Pitman Ford Lincoln. “It’s one thing to tell people distractions are dangerous, but they really understand it when they actually experience it.”

A few high school students also took a turn behind the wheel, with equally devastating results for the pylons. They were also given the chance to walk around while wearing so-called “drunk goggles,” provided by the local chapter of MADD. The goggles simulate the effects of alcohol impairment.

Bonus

Wayne Pitman Ford and Guelph Police offered some advice for minimizing distractions while driving:

  • Set your radio or CD/MP3 player to the station or song playlist you want before hitting the road.
  • Stop for snacks and meals at a restaurant or rest stop to avoid eating while driving.
  • If you must take or make a call while driving, use hands-free or other in-car technology, such as MyFord Touch™ powered by SYNC® that helps the driver stay connected through simple voice and touch-screen commands.
  • If you are driving to an unfamiliar destination, review a map or directions before you leave home, even if you have a GPS.
  • And of course, never, ever use a handheld device while driving.

How do you avoid driving distracted? Share your tips in the comments section below.