CALGARY - Whether it's an unwieldy road map sprawled across a steering wheel or texting a friend for directions, distracted driving is nothing new.
Only in recent years, it has earned its moniker and top billing among road scourges targeted by laws and public education campaigns from coast-to-coast.
Despite fines and, in many provinces demerits doled out to offenders, it is increasingly blamed in deadly collisions.
Transport Canada's National Collision database said cases where it is to blame in fatal crashes went up by 17% between 2006 and 2010 -- the number of deaths going from 302 to 352.
In recent years, authorities in Ontario blamed a higher number of deaths on distracted driving than impaired motorists.
While frustrated police say motorists are not buying into better behind-the-wheel behaviour, it is also a significant concern with the public who are increasingly outing such scofflaws as social pariahs.
"About three years ago, distracted driving topped impaired driving as the No. 1 road safety issue among Canadians," says Ian Jack, spokesman for the Canadian Automobile Association spokesman.
"And it's stayed there.
"We are not anti-technology," Jack stresses.
"We would have said the same thing 20 years ago when someone was bombing down (the freeway) with a map. Just don't do it."
But despite acknowledgement that it's a perilous practice, police say distracted driving continues, consistently leading to fender benders and fatal crashes — many saying it will take time and with it, a devastating toll, before there is more wide-scale heeding of warnings.
"Since we have largely won the war, not entirely, against impaired driving, we have a new scourge," Jack says.
The question remains how to curb it.
CLICK THE LINK BELOW TO READ MORE FROM OUR THREE-PART SERIES: DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION