Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Death by distraction

Remember back in the good old days, when people paid attention to their surroundings when driving, walking, cycling, etc.? And maybe even drove (or strolled) "defensively"?

That seems to be the exception rather than the rule any more.

Here is a story at USA Today, about "earplug oblivion." Pedestrians - predominantly males under 30 - put on their headphones or jam in their earplugs, and saunter into the path of a car, truck, OR TRAIN! Who's at fault when you're groovin' to your righteous tunes, and a train with horn blasting turns you into hamburger?!!

I saw a "hipster" on a bicycle just yesterday. He had on the Hipster beanie and the Hipster earbuds and the Hipster fashion attire. He was riding on his single-speed Hipster bike... I didn't notice whether it had brakes, but it had the big Hipster rims. He was nonchalantly riding through red lights; in fact he passed me when I was stopped at a red light. He seemed oblivious to his surroundings. (And I can't help but feel that such individuals foster resentment among motorists.)

Meanwhile, behind the wheel...

The Idaho AAA is reporting that according to a survey of 400 Idaho voters, 87% are in favor of a law prohibiting texting while driving. 59% favor "prohibiting cell phones for any purpose while driving."

Will this result in any legislation? Based on past history, it seems unlikely. As a particularly vulnerable roadway user, even though I favor small government, I'd like specific laws. (Some citizens obviously feel that anything that isn't illegal, must be okay.) I'd settle for a clarification in the Inattentive Driving law. Something like, "Inattentive driving includes, but is not limited to, operating electronic communication devices while driving."

Full disclosure: I very occasionally use some music earplugs when I'm riding - both bicycle and motorcycle. But on the bicycle I do so at volume levels that won't drown out at least some of the ambient noise. I'd hear a 100-deciebel train horn blast, I'm thinkin'. And - I never listen to music while navigating heavy traffic or sharing a traffic lane. And I pay extra attention to my rearview mirror, and constantly scan for potential hazards. (I realize the stakes are high! Some people seem not to.)

(Back in October, I observed that while a vast majority of motorists believe that texting while driving is dangerous, 35% of them confess that they do it. So in essence, what they are saying is that unless it's against the law, they'll do it. Safety alone isn't a compelling enough reason to stop. That would reinforce the notion that a law needs to be passed.)

1 comment:

Chris said...

Not to point out what I think is pretty obvious, but if safety alone were a sufficient deterrent, I don't think anyone would smoke cigarettes. That and there are these ads on the TV now directed at teens that say "If cancer won't stop you, think of all the video games you'll never own" (making reference to the cost of smoking). This makes me really sad. But whatever works...right? However I digress...
As to what you say about earbuds - as someone who rides and drives everyday (I have a long commute, so I drive the first 20 miles, and ride the last 8 on my folding bike) I have to say that just as I would never drive with earbuds in, I wouldn't ride with them in either. Hearing cars around me is really important, since I don't have mirrors on my bike or helmet, it's the best way for me to figure out what's going on around me. What kind of freak me out a little are hybrid cars, when I'm in a line of traffic. They don't make any noise until they're going 5 miles or something like that, so I don't always hear those - I feel like they can sneak up on me from behind. I don't like it one bit.