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Old 10-20-12, 07:00 AM   #1
hhnngg1
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Horrified by the number of distracted drivers I see

I was walking (gasp) to a lunch place earlier this week which was a bit farther than the norm for me, but the weather was nice and I felt like enjoying it.

It involves walking down a fairly busy but still pretty fast moving traffic street (avg speed 35-45mph) with good car density and some lights. Just for kicks, I started to observe and actually count the number of oncoming drivers (I was facing traffic) who were driving distracted.

I considered distracted:
- Having a cell phone to their head and talking (which is technically illegal here in CA)
- Texting (which means actively looking at their phone and away from the road)
- Doing something else requiring not looking at the road at all (often involved finding a phone or trying to attach the phone to a headset)

I did NOT consider driving distracted:
- Talking hands free - that's legal here in CA so I gave those drivers a pass

On my estimate, after seeing a good 30+ cars pass by at 35+mph, a good one-third of the drivers were distracted by the criteria above. If I were a cop, it would have been a field day - could have pulled over every third car for those violations. And keep in mind I'm not being a stickler about dinging drivers for distraction; these weren't momentary lapses of a second. Most of these violations were ongoing full-out conversations or big-time texts that went on from the moment I saw them to the moment they rolled by. A few drivers drove a good several hundred feet without ever even looking at the road!


Makes you worried about cycling on roads with this situation, unfortunately.
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Old 10-20-12, 07:24 AM   #2
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What you mentioned I believe absolutely to be true...and grown a lot worse with different hand held devices available....from phones, to tablets with video to GPS.
Drivers are so poor today...partly lulled into a sense of security in 2 ton vehicles with excellent crash protection...the reason I sold my motorcycle. I love motorcycles but believe the risk to be too great and a single common mistake would likely ruin my cycling...perhaps for a lifetime...too big a risk.
As to ride a bicycle on roads with speed limit above say 35 mph...good luck to all of us. I try to limit my bike riding on busy
streets or non cycling specific venues.
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Old 10-20-12, 07:29 AM   #3
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Not only cell phone use/texting and the other items you listed hhnngg1 distract drivers, but in new cars all the electronics included on the dash do too. Touch screens, tablets, GPS units, cd players, it all steals a drivers attention from the road. I see these car ads on tv and think "Are you kidding??!?"
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Old 10-20-12, 07:35 AM   #4
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- Talking hands free - that's legal here in CA so I gave those drivers a pass
So strange to me that hands free talking is against the law. To me it seems that talking hands free would be like talking to other passengers in the car. How weird would it be if you couldn't talk to other passengers in your vehicle when driving?
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Old 10-20-12, 07:35 AM   #5
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Really true. I remember the day when phones were home and when people in cars just drove. Still despite the above driving continues to become safer each year. What probably is not becoming safer is walking, running or cycling where drivers are adjacent to those doing the above.
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Old 10-20-12, 07:51 AM   #6
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Some people have never driven without owning a cell phone. When I look at drivers in passing cars, I get about the same count as the OP. Scary.
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Old 10-20-12, 07:54 AM   #7
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So strange to me that hands free talking is against the law. To me it seems that talking hands free would be like talking to other passengers in the car. How weird would it be if you couldn't talk to other passengers in your vehicle when driving?
This is because studies have shown that passengers in the car respond to driving threats which moves prevents social pressure from pulling the driver away at key moments. Listening to the stereo also does not have the distracting effect of a cell phone conversation because there is no social pressure and the driver tunes out the music when they need to.

What surprises me is how many people are shocked by the number of idiots out there. If there's one thing you can count on, that's what it would be
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Old 10-20-12, 09:07 AM   #8
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You would **** a brick here, in Taiwan, to see many cars equiped with DVD players that have screens visble to drivers while the car is being driven. Some even stream TV with 4G. I've been in MANY taxis with this.

I have no idea why anyone thought this was a good idea.
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Old 10-20-12, 09:30 AM   #9
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Our extaordinary Mayor in Toronto whos been caught reading documents while driving, wants bicycle lanes removed and has stated that cyclists being hit by vehicles deserved it would disagree with the op.

Having been hit by a distracted driver, it is a topic worthy of worry.
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Old 10-20-12, 09:37 AM   #10
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Anecdotes rarely give us an accurate account of something like this.

If we look at total driving fatalities from 2005 to 2011, the number of motor vehicle fatalities has actually dropped from 43,500 to 32,300.

Distracted driving is around 10% of fatal accidents, but the numbers appear to be falling. Its involvement in crashes has dropped, from 39,000 in 2005 to 32,000 in 2010. Fatalities due to distracted driving has dropped from 43,500 in 2005 to 32,800 in 2010. All this at a time when cell phone / smart phone / texting, and awareness of distracted driving by data collectors, has undoubtedly increased.

So either people are getting better at driving while distracted, or they are distracted less than in 2005.


Pedestrian fatalities are in absolute terms lower - 4,900 in 2000, down to 4,280 in 2010. Bicycle fatalities also haven't changed much since 2000, around 700 per year.

So cycling is just as safe now as it has been for well over a decade.


Of course there can always be local variations, and obviously more can be done to mitigate distracted driving. But it seems likely that you (and most of us) are just noticing it more acutely, rather than distracted driving actually going up.
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Old 10-20-12, 09:51 AM   #11
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Having a law that prohibits these things isn't exactly fair because some people can do it (driving while talking on the phone for instance) ... while others clearly can't.
People have been adjusting their radio or briefly looking at maps or other things while driving for decades, you know.
As long as you do it right and with the right timing and attention ... there isn't any risk involved.
Personally, for my job, I constantly do the following things while driving:
drinking, eating, calling hands-free, looking at GPS maps, looking at my toughbook on the passenger seat to see phone numbers or addresses, etc ...
Never had any problems while driving ... furthermore cyclists and pedestrians in general are very friendly to me because I almost always let them go first.
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Old 10-20-12, 09:57 AM   #12
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Having a law that prohibits these things isn't exactly fair because some people can do it (driving while talking on the phone for instance) ... while others clearly can't.
People have been adjusting their radio or briefly looking at maps or other things while driving for decades, you know.
As long as you do it right and with the right timing and attention ... there isn't any risk involved.
Personally, for my job, I constantly do the following things while driving:
drinking, eating, calling hands-free, looking at GPS maps, looking at my toughbook on the passenger seat to see phone numbers or addresses, etc ...
Never had any problems while driving ... furthermore cyclists and pedestrians in general are very friendly to me because I almost always let them go first.
And some people drive drunk better than some people who are stone sober.

When you take a 2-ton crusher that can easily go over 100 mph out on public property, society damn well has the right to dictate the rules under which you operate that deadly machine.
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Old 10-20-12, 10:08 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Bacciagalupe View Post
Anecdotes rarely give us an accurate account of something like this.

If we look at total driving fatalities from 2005 to 2011, the number of motor vehicle fatalities has actually dropped from 43,500 to 32,300.

Distracted driving is around 10% of fatal accidents, but the numbers appear to be falling. Its involvement in crashes has dropped, from 39,000 in 2005 to 32,000 in 2010. Fatalities due to distracted driving has dropped from 43,500 in 2005 to 32,800 in 2010. All this at a time when cell phone / smart phone / texting, and awareness of distracted driving by data collectors, has undoubtedly increased.

So either people are getting better at driving while distracted, or they are distracted less than in 2005.


Pedestrian fatalities are in absolute terms lower - 4,900 in 2000, down to 4,280 in 2010. Bicycle fatalities also haven't changed much since 2000, around 700 per year.

So cycling is just as safe now as it has been for well over a decade.


Of course there can always be local variations, and obviously more can be done to mitigate distracted driving. But it seems likely that you (and most of us) are just noticing it more acutely, rather than distracted driving actually going up.
Would love to know how NHSTA can deduce the no. of distracted drivers has fallen. Love to know this so please do tell.
People if anything are 'much' more distracted today because there is more to be distracted about.
As to deaths decreasing...vehicle safety has steadily improved...some cars having 8 air bags including roll over bags and much better crash management...including critical side crash protection.
Drunk drivers still kill a lot people out on the roads. Basically 40,000 people are killed in the US in car accidents every year like clock work.
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Old 10-20-12, 10:11 AM   #14
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Funny you mention this, I was walking today and did the same thing. It was almost odd to see someone not busy with their phone.
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Old 10-20-12, 11:09 AM   #15
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THis is an issue all over the world...well maybe not in Copenhagen

A lesson from my motorcycle instructor applies to both cyclists and pedestrians as well: 'Always assume you are invisible'
I've read somewhere that North American drivers are simply not used to or made sensitive to presence of cyclists on the road.
Since cycling is on the rise, the danger of getting hit has also increased.
Average driver's brain may not 'register' the presence of such a small object, as it is scanning mostly for cars.

We need more awareness for the drivers, paying attention to smaller objects on the road like bicycles, scooters, mopeds and motorcycles should be stressed during driver training (which btw should be mandatory for new drivers)
My father taught me how to drive, and so I inherited all of HIS so-so habits...which took a while to realize and deal with down the road

The light at the end of this tunnel is that bike lanes are on the rise and the numbers, and therefore exposure is up.

I worked for a courier company which operated in Vancouver, Canada. We had a few bike couriers for DT core.
These guys had to deal with drivers not paying attention on minute-by-minute basis.
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Old 10-20-12, 11:27 AM   #16
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My daily goal while biking is to try and find as many as possible that are NOT texting or talking on phones in cars. I cross at a four way light in a small city at mid morning daily. It is a joke how many are doing everything but driving. I have it figured out, IF the head is turning back and forth to see if they can turn and the phone is in hand to ear, they DO NOT see me on a bike. Oh boy is it a sore spot to me.
Who is everyone talking and texting too is my question? I say the President must call and ask opinions from all these people.
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Old 10-20-12, 11:32 AM   #17
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Would love to know how NHSTA can deduce the no. of distracted drivers has fallen.
When there's a reported crash, the police fill out the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria. This ensures that police are reporting the same data to the NHSTA.

It's certainly a better means of measurement than an irate cyclist watching a handful of cars on a busy road.


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As to deaths decreasing...vehicle safety has steadily improved...some cars having 8 air bags including roll over bags and much better crash management...including critical side crash protection.
That might be possible, but actually, the more likely component of the explanation -- which I admit I missed -- is that people are driving less.

The estimated number of miles driven peaked in 2005, and started falling after that. By 2011, people were driving as much as they had in 1997. Less driving = less crashes = less distracted driving = less crashes due to distracted driving.


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Drunk drivers still kill a lot people out on the roads. Basically 40,000 people are killed in the US in car accidents every year like clock work.
No, it used to be close to 40,000 -- in 2005. It's now down to around 32,000.

The number of alcohol-related fatalities, which hovered around 17,000 per year from 1993 to 2005, started to dip after 2005, and dropped to less than 13,000 per year in 2009.


And again, the changes in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities are all but statistically insignificant. 2.47 million Americans died last year, and 700 of them were on a bicycle when it happened. That's 0.03% of all US fatalities. This doesn't mean you should cycle like a complete moron and feel safe, or that distracted driving is never an issue. It means we could use a nice dose of perspective here.

10 times more people a year die from Clostridium difficile infections than on a bike. How many people have even heard of c.diff?

In other words, cycling is a relatively safe activity. Stay predictable, use some common sense, learn how to avoid common crashes, watch for cars and you should be fine.
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Old 10-20-12, 11:54 AM   #18
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Agree with above. Bicycling is still statistically a very safe activity.

However, I would argue, even just on my anecdotal observations, that your odds of having an accident are dramatically reduced if you select roads that are away from high moving traffic density and away from urban areas where things like texting and fiddling with phones are more common, if not just because of the sheer number of drivers.

On my favorite bike routes, I can usually count with one hand the number of cars that will pass me in a 30-60 minute stretch. The roads that are more trafficked have big shoulders with other cyclist groups on them so it's pretty well known to keep alert for us. Of course you don't always have this luxury depending on where you live, but I do think it would be a big mistake to think that just because the stats suggest that cycling is safe, that you shouldn't worry about where you ride. The total number of bicycle fatalities will always be low as well since only a very small segment of the population bikes at all. Compare to drivers or people getting sick in hospitals, and the numbers aren't even close in terms of people at risk.
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Old 10-20-12, 12:15 PM   #19
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Oh yes. It's only a matter of time.
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Old 10-20-12, 12:24 PM   #20
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Oh yes. It's only a matter of time.
Everything is.
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Old 10-20-12, 02:14 PM   #21
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And some people drive drunk better than some people who are stone sober.
This is absolutely true and the main reason I don't like the Belgian law system that simply measures the amount of alcohol in the air you breathe out to decide whether or not you have to pay a fine.
I've heard about actual tests with walking on lines and such being conducted in the states ... that system isn't perfect either but definately better than just measuring an amount and deciding that makes you a certain degree of "drunk".
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Old 10-20-12, 02:18 PM   #22
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Old 10-20-12, 02:20 PM   #23
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the changes in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities are all but statistically insignificant. 2.47 million Americans died last year, and 700 of them were on a bicycle when it happened. That's 0.03% of all US fatalities. This doesn't mean you should cycle like a complete moron and feel safe, or that distracted driving is never an issue. It means we could use a nice dose of perspective here..
Nicely put there.
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Old 10-20-12, 04:08 PM   #24
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And again, the changes in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities are all but statistically insignificant. 2.47 million Americans died last year, and 700 of them were on a bicycle when it happened. That's 0.03% of all US fatalities. This doesn't mean you should cycle like a complete moron and feel safe, or that distracted driving is never an issue. It means we could use a nice dose of perspective here.
Using 2009 US stats, 628 cyclists were killed that year, representing .5 percent in the total of the 118,000 unintentional US deaths. Add in the fact that bicycling only accounts for .4 percent of the US transportation share, which in turn only shoots even more holes in that nice dose of perspective of yours.
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Old 10-20-12, 04:35 PM   #25
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When you take a 2-ton crusher that can easily go over 100 mph out on public property, society damn well has the right to dictate the rules under which you operate that deadly machine.
"Society" is unlikely to pay any attention to horrified advocates who use overheated rhetoric like 2-ton crushers to describe an automobile or refer to 100 mph capability of automobiles as an issue when discussing distracted driving.
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