Ever notice a distracted driver – or worse yet, been one yourself? Very rare, right? Riiiight … right, right, right. Here’s a few ways to be distracted while operating a four-wheeled motor vehicle (you can’t do most of this stuff on a bike):
- Talking on the phone without using “hands free” technology – cradling the phone in the crook of your neck also counts.
- Texting – how many “texters” do you observe during your rides? A couple of years back, five young girls in this area were killed in a head on collision with a truck. Care to guess what the young driver was doing? Not much else needs to be said about this extremely dangerous habit.
- Eating – Saturday Night Live did a skit many years ago about a new invention … the Cheeseburger Phone. The point was everybody at the time was complaining about cell phone use while driving, but a lot of those who were complaining thought nothing about chowing down on a messy burger while driving. So, why not talk on a phone that is disguised as a cheeseburger? Lesson: eating while driving is OK but talking on the phone is bad. You get the picture … eating while driving is also a very dangerous distraction.
- Jamming – “Loud Pipes Save Lives!!!” – nonsense. I don’t care how loud your pipes are … that kid playing music at levels that OSHA considers to be permanently damaging to human hearing can’t hear your stupid pipes, can’t hear sirens, can’t hear horns and likely does not have a clue what’s going on around him. It is stupid. It is illegal. My guess is it is almost never citied by law enforcement (but they may pull you over for your loud pipes). Even more dangerous is the fool wearing headphones.
- Farding – stop laughing … it’s derived from the French “fard’ – meaning “make up” and it’s a term used to describe the act of applying make-up while driving. In case you have any questions, the answer is “yes!” … this is every bit as dangerous as any other form of distracted driving.
- Babysitting – ever notice mom turned around fiddling with baby in the back seat WHILE THE CAR IS MOVING! No really, I see this frequently. Junior spilled his milk, is crying, dropped his toy … whatever and momma spins around in her seat to handle the matter. Really? Are you kidding? Not only is she not watching the road … she is facing the rear of the car! No doubt she bought the best car seat she could find to protect her baby and then she does this?
- Computing – now we’ve got “Google Glass”. Great! Now some dummy can concentrate on watching his favorite vampire movie instead of being bothered by paying attention to the road. But, to be fair, the same dopes (no wait! They’re brilliant geeks!) who this technology appeals to were computing “on the go” long before this new innovation. I remember one guy I worked with who mounted a computer on a stand next to the drivers seat so he could do “stuff” while tooling down the super highway at 80 mph. No problems there, right? AND, now we have “iWatch” (or whatever the piece of junk is called) so that we can text, compute, etc. while driving and the cop won’t be able to cite them because they aren’t holding a device … it’s on our wrist! Think that’s obnoxious? Ask a lawyer.
I’m sure you could come up with more stupidity that you’ve observed while riding. And while chatting about stuff like this is amusing and sometimes funny, what’s not cool is when some idiot who’s not paying attention turns you into road pizza while you’re just cruising along, enjoying life on your bike.
I just had two separate instances during the past week that brought this continuing problem to the front of my admittedly limited mind, both of which involved severely distracted cagers. The first one had me in the passing lane on an interstate, cruising along at about 70 mph when I noticed that the guy I was passing had a cell phone tucked into the right crook of his neck and was looking down at the passenger seat. Can you imagine that –talking and looking off the road. Watching in my rearview after blowing by him, he kept drifting to the left – if I had been next to him during one of these “cycles”, I could have been a pile in the median ditch. Yes, I did keep him well behind me until I exited.
The second run in was even scarier. I was in lovely Canandaigua, NY on the four lane main street, where traffic direction is separated by a grassy divider. The speed limit is 30 mph and the crosswalks are clearly marked with signs that say “Yield To Pedestrians”. Seeing a man starting to cross from my left and just getting to the divider, I stopped in my lane (the left one) and he began to cross when he stopped and got a shocked look on his face. In my mirror, I noticed a pickup truck approaching in the right lane and she had absolutely no intention of stopping. She whizzed by me on the right without even slowing and if I had to guess, she was well over the posted limit. Good thing she wasn’t in my lane or I would be dead. What do you think she might have been doing?
Yes, I know all about road rage and I also know that confronting those who I call “road fools” can lead to escalation, but to me, almost killing someone is certainly a cause for discussion. I caught up to her at the next red light, pushed up my face shield and asked her (in a calm voice) through her open window “did you see the guy in the crosswalk who I was stopped for that you almost killed?” She looked at me with a totally surprised look on her face and simply said “no”. What’s the sense of taking that conversation any further? I just shook my head and rode on, hoping that maybe she learned some sort of lesson. Bottom line is that a pedestrian and/or I could have become a statistic, simply because somebody was too involved with doing something other than driving.
What can you do about all of this? Here’s some ideas:
- Don’t do any of these stupid things yourself when you are driving a car
- If you are in a car with someone who is doing any of these distracting things, ask them to stop doing it. If they don’t, tell them to stop doing it. If they still don’t stop, tell them to pull over and let you out. Make the damn point, because if you don’t it’s very likely no one ever will. If they are a friend, ask yourself if you need idiots like that for a friend.
- Put a “Look Twice – Save A Life” sign in your front yard (and anywhere else where it’s legal). Keep reminding people that motorcycles are out there … we as bikers CANNOT do enough to make the public aware … it has to be a constant effort.
- In casual conversation, talk about your near misses with your cager friends. This let’s them know the dangers very nice biker types (like you) face while simply enjoying the ride
- Ride defensively! It’s still your job to protect yourself from these idiots and this includes staying well away from them when you can.
- Confrontation has the potential to end badly and calling 911 is useless because the offender will be long gone and not doing anything illegal by the time a cop arrives, if one is even sent to investigate. Best advice is to use common sense when interfacing with strangers, if you choose to at all.
- Write to your local newspaper OpEd page about this subject and the havoc distracted driving causes every single day. All the statistics you’ll ever need are easily found on the web. Even if only one person has a change of heart after reading the article, you are a winner. If we all do this at least once, think of the number of people who we will get our message to.
- The government and the auto industry (now largely one and the same) are starting to develop “smart cars” that drive themselves relying on the latest computer technology. Swell … so the answer is more regulation and gadgets that will add thousands of dollars to the price of our already over priced cars, just because as a collective group, motorists can’t keep their heads out of their asses. And, don’t forget the side benefit of even more government control and monitoring of your actions. Not really a good answer in my opinion, but an answer nevertheless.
- Tell your politicians and cops that you support strict fines for distracted driving and absolutely no “warnings” – write the damn ticket. I’m anti-regulation, but having no laws is a bad thing, Having too many laws is a bad thing but some laws are just smart things.
- If you are a parent and your kid gets a ticket for distracted driving, take the keys away! A car is transportation but it can also be a weapon. Don’t give junior the chance to use it as such. Would you (or the state) let him continue driving if he was stopped for drunk driving?
- Again, if you are a parent, petition your school district to conduct a distracted driving campaign … posters, classroom instruction, educational visits by local law enforcement, etc. You might need to get involved in the PTA or go to school board meetings to get this done, but no one ever said life was easy! One way to get people’s attention is to get on the speaking schedule and then have a supportive law enforcement officer attend with you. And yes – in case you’re wondering, I did this stuff when supporting local drunk driving efforts. It works.
So, there are things you can do top put a stop to the lunacy that is distracted driving (I don’t think that’s to harsh a term considering it involves operating a couple of thousand pounds of metal at high speed in an uncontrolled manner). Some of them take a lot of work, but your owe it to yourselves and your community to do what you can.
Drive defensively and enjoy the ride!