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Texting, driving, and Lake Wobegon - Cyclelicious

Texting, driving, and Lake Wobegon

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Friday, February 12, 2010
By Yokota Fritz

Do you have a story of a near hit by a texting driver? Please post it in the comments.

If you're an above average driver, this is for you.

Yesterday on KGO Radio (a San Francisco AM talk radio station), the mid morning talk show took listener calls for their thoughts on Oprah Winfrey's crusade to discourage texting while driving.

The phoned in comments were an eye opener for me, to say the least. The first call came from a 24 year old in Woodside (natch). "I grew up with all this amazing technology, and because these old people can't handle it I am not allowed to use it!" he whined. ( ...and they say cyclists are entitled.... ) "I text while driving and I've never had an accident," he continued.

Caller after caller complained about California's anti-texting law. Even those who acknowledged the danger of texting while driving confessed they wouldn't sign Oprah's no texting pledge because they don't plan to give it up. "I'm perfectly safe texting while driving," was a common sentiment. "Just because those other idiots can't handle the technology doesn't mean I'm dangerous."

Let me clue you in on a little known fact: Almost every driver considers themselves above average, but we clearly cannot all be above average. Just like the above average children of Lake Wobegon, your superior driving skills and mine are fiction.

Overestimating our driving skills results in less caution and awareness on the roads, and the callers who claim to drive safely while texting are a perfect example of this lack of caution. It reminds me so much of some of my college pals who claimed they were safer driving drunk than they were driving sober. The truth is they just didn't realize how dangerous their driving was because they were so out of it!

People who text and drive are not aware of how dangerous their driving is because they're not even paying attention! You don't notice that you just ran a red light, because everybody else in the cross street slammed on their brakes as you plowed on through. You don't notice that you've drifted halfway into the next lane over, and the driver in that lane had to take evasive action to avoid the collision.

I see this stuff all the time in the Bay Area - drivers (all of them above average, I'm sure) who barely avoid killing somebody and don't even realize that they were just inches from a major accident. I wonder how many of these hit and runs of cyclists and pedestrians are motorists who blithely run over somebody without realizing it and then puzzle over the body damage on their car a week later. They probably assume they were the victim of a parking lot scrape.

In case you haven't heard, studies reveal that texting is at least as dangerous as driving drunk.

HTH. I need to run and cook dinner now (I'm typing this up on Thursday night) so I don't have time to elaborate on why this is so important to cyclists. Please feel free to comment with your own thoughts, experiences with near hits, and news local to you where a cyclist was killed or maimed by a texting driver.

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Great post. Thanks for getting the word out there. I"m a huge advocate of text and cell phone free driving. It's definitely one of my frustrations. People should stay off their phones while driving....period. In the city I live in, they just passed a law on January 1 that makes texting and cell phone use illegal while driving. Hope it helps here...and hope other cities pick this up as well.
As a cyclist and a lover of humanity, this has to stop.
All above average drivers will encounter something unexpected at some point. That split second while you're typing away is all it takes to lose precious response time. If Oprah can't convince you, we're in a world of hurt.
I was a passenger in a car in which my employer was texting as he drove down a freeway at 80+ mph — and I can guarantee, he was not in control of that car as it drifted from one lane to another and nearly ran off the road. He, too, laughed it off; I never got in a car with him again.

And don't forget the case here in L.A., in which 25 people were killed because the engineer of a MetroLink train was texting instead of watching for signals.
The comment above about the "split second while your typing" is what most people think, but the car and driver piece and other tests have shown that people will frequently go up to 8 seconds without looking! That is why texting is way worse than drinking. Most drinkers are paying attention but slow to react. Texter's aren't paying attention at all so they may have an accident before they even try to react. Unfortunately, I don't think laws will help, the Oprah approach may though. As you point out in your book, once you have texted and gotten away with it, you think your able to handle it. Unfortunately you don't even see the close calls. Many people will have to die before people's attitude changes.
It's galling.
What has been historicallysuccessful in getting people to figure out how incredibly stupid they are?
Yea, seriously, I'da thunk Oprah would have some sway.
We are all stupider than we think. It kills us.
Dumb= Driving + talking on cell phone.
Dumber = Driving + texting.
Dumbest = Driving + texting + talking on cell phone.

Good for Oprah and other educational campaigns but they are not enough as your video shows. People know it's dangerous but it is so convenient and therefore usage won't be voluntarily stopped.

Laws must be used to change behavior and I'm all for regulations which would require auto companies to install preventive devices that disable texting-talking on cell phones while the vehicle is in motion.

The truck ran into, and over, a line of 10 vehicles. "I am sorry. This probably would not have happened if I would not have been on my cell phone,"
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