APRIL – DISTRACTED DRIVING AWARENESS MONTH – Riding season is on…
Watch out for distracted drivers…they are everywhere. Nothing is more threatening to us motorcycle riders than the distracted driver who now commonly occupies our streets, roadways and highways. Driving mobile phone users and habitual texters have become a real menace to all motorcycle riders and cagers alike. 3,477 people were killed and over 421,000 injured in 2015, according to the latest government data.
The distracted driver problem is getting worse in my opinion and this deadly practice must simply, somehow, be stopped.
Menace is defined in Webster’s dictionary as a person or thing that is likely to cause harm; a threat of harm and/or danger. Someone who causes trouble or annoyance…a dangerous or threatening person…”. Yet, while the dangers of distracted driving, especially texting and driving, are clear, people are still doing it.
Like drugged or drunk drivers, distracted drivers have become a clear and present danger to us all.
I estimate that almost half the drivers I see on California highways seem to be on cell phones, smart phones, texting and/or even checking the internet while driving. It’s a roadway crisis!— MJB
I put tens of thousands of miles on my 2 and 4-wheel vehicles each year and I’m frankly shocked at the number of distracted drivers out there. I even see big rig operators on their cell phones on a regular basis. How insane is this?
Young and old, everyone seems to be doing it! Driver inattention seems to have become a “normal” roadway practice. It’s an addiction as far as I can tell and it appears to be getting worse. According to New Jersey’s Attorney General’s Office, 53% of crashes in that state labeled “driver inattention” as a contributing factor. Yes, that’s over half of all accidents in Jersey. I suspect this to be a typical statistic in all states across the country.
Law Enforcement Cannot Solve The Distracted Driver Problem Without Our Help.
Look-it, I like cops. They do amazing work keeping us safe under the toughest of circumstances. Having them spend valuable life-saving time chasing cell phone use violators is a complete waste of their talent and bravery. Weekend crackdowns, ticket campaigns and checkpoints targeting motorists who are using handheld devices while driving are simply not effective. These actions, while they sound good and even appear worthy, do nothing to curtail this dangerous practice beyond the time period in question.
Low-level fines of $100 to $500 on motorists violating the distracted cell phone laws are not working.
Yes, you can add court costs and various fees to increase the penalty but let’s be honest! These low-level fines have done nothing to stop texting and driving for example. Click here for an example of what I’m talking about…Killer Texter fined only $500!
Now, a $2,500 fine, that’s a meaningful pocketbook pain point. Add loss of a drivers license for 6 to 12 months and you’ll really get people’s attention. And, if you kill someone due to your reckless use of a mobile device while driving, vehicular manslaughter/murder charge at minimum is a must.
Drugged. Drunk. Distracted Drivers…all should be treated as harshly as a DUI sentence in my book.
So, where do we go from here? Here’s my 2-cents.
1. I’m no lawyer but I gotta tell yas. Those inflicting pain and misery because of an accident caused by the use of their mobile device need to be at minimum, charged with reckless driving.
Plus, prosecutors should charge offenders with vehicular assault when an accident occurs from such reckless driving. Suspending driving privileges for 12 months should also be part of the legal package.
2. Employers must enforce laws that prohibit on-the-job cell phone use while employees are driving on business. Employees should fear the possibility of getting fired should they be caught using their smart phones or laptops while driving on business. In other words, employees engaging in a clearly dangerous workplace behavior and breaking the law should be disciplined…up to and including, being fired for breaking company risk management and safety rules. And, employers, you corporate liability and deep pockets are sure to attract a big lawsuit should one of your employees crash and kill due to being driving distracted on the job.
3. Adults need to be better role models to teen drivers. A recent survey, found that 77% of teens say adults tell them not to text and drive yet, do it themselves all the time. Is this nuts or what? Please, it’s time to lead by example people.
4. Take The Pledge.
“No text message, email, website or video is worth the risk of endangering my life or the lives of others on the road. I pledge to never text and drive and take action to educate others about the dangers of texting while driving. No text is worth the risk. It can wait!”
I like this attempt by AT&T to get the word out. I have taken the pledge…will you?
5. Become an advocate. Yes, you need to get involved. Your safe motoring life actually depends on it. If you’re a motorcyclist, there’s no excuse. You must do something against distracted driving. It is literally a threat to our sport and passion.This problem will not go away on its own…we must all play a part.
6. Use advanced technology to prevent texting, emailing, or web access while a vehicle is in motion…any motion.
Best I figure, only widespread use of technology that prevents mobile smart phones from working while inside a vehicle will bring any meaningful solution to this deadly problem.
Texting and driving is now a part of people’s psyche…a bad habit stuck in the consciousness of today’s drivers. While tougher laws and large fines should act as a deterrent for the responsible among us, the irresponsible will continue to use their smart phones while driving and as a result, continue to cause accidents.
Phone scrambling technology using GPS to disable texting and/or phone calls while a vehicle is in motion.
The technology is available…we just need laws to implement it. I am now convinced that society has no choice but to vote in the mandatory use of this phone scrambling technology less we want distracted driving accidents to continue to wreck the lives of innocent people. Check out one of the leading companies offering such a product, CogoSense Company.
7. Join the American Motorcyclists Association and help them work with the NHTSA.
The AMA has taken on the cause of distracted drivers as well and your AMA membership matters towards moving this cause forward. Click here for the AMA’s latest news item on the issue. Click here for the official statement from the AMA regarding their position on the inattentive operation of vehicles.
So, what is the government doing about this distracted driving crisis?
You need to know that the U.S. Department of Transportation, through the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration), is trying to help the cause by leading the effort to stop texting and cell phone use behind the wheel. They have held two national distracted driving summits, banned texting and cell phone use for commercial drivers, encouraged states to adopt tough laws, and launched several campaigns to raise public awareness on the issue.
Driver training is a key component…but it’s not enough.
As a motorcyclist, I do appreciate the efforts of the NHTSA but fact is, as you have just read throughout this blog post…we have a long way to go before distracted drivers are stopped from menacing users of our roadways. Check out their website and judge for yourself how the government is assisting the cause. Bottom line, you and me need to get involved and help keep the roads safe. No government body can do it for us.
So, as we enter another exciting season of motorcycling, we should all make sure that we have good health insurance and life insurance since there is surely to be more accidents on the highways and byways of this great land due to distracted drivers. The texting and driving problem is that bad I tell yas. Five seconds and it could all be over.
The Bottom Line: Don’t Drive Distracted…ever! If you must use your phone while driving, find a safe place to pull off the road before you make your call or send your text. The life you save may well be your own.
Ride Safe Out There.
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