DISTRACTED DRIVING IS NO ACCIDENT
Distracted driving while texting or talking on the phone is a conscious, irresponsible choice. When someone is injured or killed, it’s not an accident. It’s the result of a crash caused by a total disregard for the life of another human being. It’s no different than drinking and driving.
Changing that behavior should be as simple as acknowledging the potential danger to other people. Not answering the phone while driving or pulling over to make a call is a simple courtesy born out of respect for others.
When you look at how we drive it’s difficult to fathom why cell phone use while driving is so prevalent.
- 50 percent of all trips we make by car are 3 miles or less
- 95 percent of single-trip journeys by car are under 30 miles
- The average single-trip distance is just 5.95 miles
- 95 percent of commuters travel less than 40 miles to work
- The average commute distance is 13.6 miles
The average daily time spent driving a personal vehicle is just 56.09 minutes. That’s about 28 minutes for a one way trip. So, is there any phone call that is so vital that it can’t be made in less than a half hour or made after the vehicle is parked? Alarmingly, the answer is YES or there wouldn’t be a need for distracted driving reform.
DISTRACTED DRIVING STANDARDS
State legislators write the laws that govern texting and cell phone use in their states. The federal government does not create or enforce those laws. Congress does, however, set national standards and provides funding to the States, through the Department of Transportation, for the States that meet those standards.
In 2007, Washington became the first state to ban texting while driving. Congress recognized the value of the ban and through the US DOT §405 National Priority Safety Program wrote national texting while driving standards that provided funding to the States if they met those standards.
Today, 47 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a primary enforcement law prohibiting text messaging for all drivers. Arizona and Missouri only prohibit texting for novice or underage drivers.
Florida, Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota have a secondary enforcement law prohibiting texting for all drivers. This means an officer may not ticket a driver for texting without another traffic offense first taking place.
The use of a cell phone while driving is a different story.
- 20 States and D.C. have a primary cell phone ban for Bus Drivers.
- 38 States and D.C. have a primary cell phone ban for Novice Drivers.
- 6 States have a secondary cell phone ban for Novice Drivers.
- 14 States, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have a primary ban for hand-held cell phone use.
Congress hasn’t set a national standard that would provide funding to the States that prohibit cell phone use like it did with the texting ban. And, there hasn’t been sufficient pressure on Congress or State Legislators for an outright ban on all hand-held cell phone use. In the meantime, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists continue to pay a deadly price for someone’s inability to put the phone down.
Prohibiting all hand-held cell phone use for all drivers’ makes sense for the safety of all road users. The States need to enact primary enforcement laws that prohibit all hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. But before the States act, Congress may first need to provide the funding incentive through US DOT §405 programs just like it did with the texting ban.
The solution is simple – write distracted driving legislation that prohibits all hand-held cell phone use for all drivers. As bicyclists, we are 66+ million strong. And, it’s time for our State and Federal representatives to hear the strength of our voice and our resolve for distracted driving reform.
Our Congressional Proposal
We’ve worked with the legislative staff of Congressman Earl Blumenauer, the Founder and Co-chair of the Congressional Bike Caucus, and Congressman Jared Polis’s office to create a bill that would put Bicycle Safety into the USDOT’s Section 405 National Priority Safety Program.
That program would provide the States with funding and incentives to:
- Implement a national awareness campaign for motorists and cyclists.
- Include critical bicyclists’ safety issues in driver educational programs, defensive driving courses, and particularly on licensing examinations for motorists.
- Make bicycle skills training available to all children and interested adults.
- Improve the conspicuousness of cyclists with modern bicycle lighting laws with a consistent set of regulations.
- Implement a methodology to accurately collect and analyze national car/bike crash data.