distracted driving

Thoughts on distracted driving and walking headlines

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on October 23rd, 2013 at 10:11 am

Poster from Distraction.gov campaign.

One of the things I spend time on everyday is monitoring headlines. I liken this part of my job to a military intelligence officer listening to “chatter” from satellites and other broadcast signals. It’s fascinating to watch various memes and issues go from a tiny whisper to a roar in a matter of hours. Another thing I try to watch for is how the same issue is spun in different ways.

In the past day or so, distracted driving has been on my mind (it actually never leaves my mind) and I’ve noticed several interesting headlines about it. Then this morning, a major regional transit agency put out a message about “distracted walking”. With all this chatter, I figured it was time to talk about this issue again.

In his most recent column titled, How do we curb our careless obsession with cell phones in cars? Oregonian columnist Steve Duin made it clear that he is concerned about this dangerous epidemic. In his piece, Duin points to the toothless penalties the currently exist in Oregon law for people caught using phones while driving. He also points out the vast gap in severity of punishment between drunk driving and distracted driving, event though it could be argued that, “the latter is far more hazardous to your judgment and reaction times”. Not only that, I’d add, but unfortunately distracted driving is far more common and socially accepted than drunk driving.[Read more…]

Complaints about TriMet operators using phones behind the wheel plunge 85%

Michael Andersen (Contributor) by on August 29th, 2013 at 3:20 pm

Riding Portland's urban highways-38

TriMet requires its drivers to keep electronic
devices off and out of sight while working.
(Photo: J.Maus/BikePortland)

TriMet’s total ban on the use of electronic devices while driving seems to be working, though some of the transit agency’s operators still seem to flout the rule.

The Oregonian’s Joseph Rose opened his notebook Thursday to share a wealth of reporting about TriMet operators’ use of electronic devices, including the results of a public record request showing that the number of complaints received by TriMet about drivers and cell phones fell from 530, in the two years to 2009, to 80, in the two years to 2013.

In 2010, as one of his first orders on the job, General Manager Neil McFarlane began requiring operators to keep their cell phones off and out of sight while on duty. Matters came to a head when one passenger captured a video that seemed to show a driver with a history of past incidents reading a Kindle while behind the wheel of a bus on Interstate 5.

[Read more…]

Ask BikePortland: What should I do when I see people using phones while driving?

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on August 1st, 2013 at 1:29 pm

Should you say something?
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Funny how things work out some times: A reader emailed me a few hours ago wondering what she should do when she sees people using phones while driving. Then a few minutes ago I read a news story about the exact same situation.

The situation is this: When bicycling, it’s very easy to see inside people’s cars as you ride by. That means people who ride bikes witness an awful lot of people using phones while driving. For anyone that knows the carnage distracted driving accounts for on our streets, this is a disturbing phenomenon. Using a cell phone while driving is both highly dangerous to yourself and those around you, and it also shows blatant disregard of Oregon traffic law. (As an aside, this ease of seeing drivers on cell phones while biking is why I’ve advocated for the police to use bike patrol officers to do cell phone law enforcement stings. So far, they haven’t taken me up on the idea).

Reader Kim I. emailed us wondering what to do (if anything) after witnessing such behavior. Here’s her email:
[Read more…]

Surprise! New driving research shows “hands-free” isn’t safe

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on June 13th, 2013 at 10:31 am

Cover of Measuring Cognitive Distraction in the Automobile,
a new report from AAA.

Yesterday the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety dropped a bomb into the national debate about distracted driving. They conducted research and developed a report that shows “significant levels of cognitive distraction” by people who drive while performing various hands-free tasks. The report comes amid a growing trend in the auto-industry to turn cars into smartphones. In fact, on the same day this report came out, Apple made a big announcement about their new operating system, iOS in the Car, which promises to allow users to, “easily and safely make phone calls, access your music, send and receive messages, get directions and more.”
[Read more…]

Beaverton PD launches distracted driving diversion program

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on April 12th, 2013 at 12:55 pm


New program would offer class in
lieu of $110 ticket.
(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

The Beaverton Police Department wants to increase public awareness about distracted driving and especially the dangers of using a cell phone while driving. As of today, when people get stopped by Beaverton PD officers for violating Oregon’s cell phone law, they will be given the option of going through a Distracted Driving Diversion Program.

Here’s more from Beaverton PD Public Information Officer Mike Rowe:

“This new program provides drivers who have been stopped and issued a citation for using a mobile communication device an opportunity to attend an educational class. The class has an emphasis on distracted driving with a focus on the use of a cell phone. If you choose to take the Distracted Driving Diversion class, pay the diversion fee of $85.00, and successfully complete the class. The case will be dismissed and there will be no conviction on your driving record.”

[Read more…]

Oregon Senate says cab drivers should be exempt from cell phone law

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 22nd, 2013 at 7:55 am

“These are people who are struggling and their livings are made by whether or not they can pick folks up… This is their life.”
— Sen. Larry George, the bill’s sponsor

The Oregon legislature made a strange move on Monday that is very likely to make Portland roads less safe for everyone. By a vote of 19-11, the Senate passed a bill that adds yet another exception to the state’s existing cell phone law. Senate Bill 294, sponsored by Senator Larry George (R-Sherwood), allows a taxicab driver to use a “mobile communication device”, a.k.a. cell phone, while driving.

This is despite widespread evidence that using a cell phone while driving is very dangerous.

SB 294’s sponsor, Sen. Larry George (yes that Senator) got all 14 of his fellow Republicans to join him in supporting the taxicab exemption. The five Democrats who voted in favor of the bill included; Lee Beyer, Chris Edwards, Betsy Johnson, Ernie Roblan, and Chip Shields.

[Read more…]

USDOT distracted driving efforts now aimed at auto makers

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on February 16th, 2012 at 11:18 am

From Ford website.

I was happy this morning to find a statement from U.S. DOT Secretary Ray LaHood’s office that his war on distracted driving now includes new regulations for automakers. The proposals come as President Obama’s just-released transportation budget includes $330 million to combat the problem.

For the past few years, I’ve been disturbed at the trend to turn cars into one big gadget. Automakers, scared that their vehicles can’t compete with consumers’ growing adoration of smartphones and other devices, now offer all sorts of phone-like conveniences on-board. The result? More distraction, more crashes, more deaths and injuries.
[Read more…]

PBOT announces location of first distracted driving enforcement action

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on July 14th, 2011 at 5:46 pm

The City of Portland has announced the first location for enhanced enforcement of distracted driving. PBOT will work with the Portland Police Bureau to conduct an “enforcement mission” at the intersection of SW Barbur Boulevard, SW Taylors Ferry Road, and SW 41st Avenue this coming Wednesday (7/20).

The effort is part of the “StreetSmart: Go Safe” campaign, that PBOT launched last month.

PBOT data shows that this intersection is a high-crash location. It was also selected because of citizen complaints of motor vehicle operators disobeying the “No Turn on Red” and driving in bike lanes to maneuver around stopped cars.[Read more…]

USDOT: New research shows enforcement cuts distracted driving

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on July 13th, 2011 at 10:12 am

An interesting big of information from the US DOT that could have some influence on local policy:

New research shows enforcement cuts distracted driving

Pilot Programs in Syracuse, NY and Hartford, CT Significantly Curb Texting and Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel

SYRACUSE – U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today announced dramatic reductions in distracted driving in Syracuse, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut, after two pilot projects measured the effect of increased law enforcement coupled with high-profile public education campaigns.

“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly-visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents.”

Each program, which was supported by $200,000 in federal funds and $100,000 from the state, examined whether increased police enforcement along with paid advertising and news media coverage could reduce distracted driving. The pilot efforts used “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” as the media campaign theme and were structured similarly to the highly-successful national seat belt campaign, “Click It or Ticket.”

During four periods of stepped up enforcement over the past year, Syracuse police issued 9,587 citations for driver violations involving talking or texting on cell phones while operating a vehicle. During the same period, police in Hartford, Connecticut, issued 9,658 tickets for illegal phone use.

Before and after each enforcement wave, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) actively observed cell phone use and conducted public awareness surveys at driver licensing offices in the two cities, which found:

In Syracuse, New York because of high-visibility enforcement – both handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel have declined by one-third.

In Hartford, Connecticut, where researchers initially identified drivers talking on their cell phones at twice the frequency (which left more room for improvement), there was a 57 percent drop in handheld use and texting behind the wheel dropped by nearly three-quarters.
“The success of these pilot programs clearly show that combining strong laws with strong enforcement can bring about a sea change in public attitudes and behavior,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “We applaud the work of the men and women of the Syracuse and Hartford police forces, and call on state legislatures, law enforcement and safety advocates across the nation to follow their lead.”

NHTSA plans to test this same three-part formula – tough laws, strong enforcement, and ongoing public awareness – at the state-wide level next.

In 2009, nearly 5,500 fatalities and another half million injuries resulted from crashes involving a distracted driver. Overall, distraction-related fatalities represented 16 percent of total traffic fatalities in 2009.

Nationwide, 34 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam have enacted texting bans. Nine states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have prohibited all hand-held cell phone use while driving.

Click here to see the NHTSA report on the enforcement programs (PDF) in Syracuse and Hartford. To learn more about NHTSA’s efforts on distracted driving visit www.distraction.gov.

From the Archives: Opinion: Diverging trends for distracted driving (2011)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) by on March 28th, 2011 at 11:14 am

Distracted driving is arguably the most important traffic safety issue facing America today. Amazingly, while we have many advocates and other smart people working to address the issue, the auto industry seems to be promoting it by turning cars into rolling computers.

A few things came across my desk this morning that show how these two trends — getting tough on distracted driving on one hand, while promoting it on the other — continue to be at odds with each other.
[Read more…]