Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Obama Administration: Distracted Driving is a Menace To Society

'By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Writer Ken Thomas, Associated Press Writer – Wed Sep 30, 6:42 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Driving while distracted is a growing peril in a nation reluctant to put down its cell phones and handheld devices even behind the wheel, the Obama administration declared on Wednesday. Officials said Congress and the public must team up to reduce the danger.

Opening a two-day meeting to find ways to reduce drivers' use of mobile devices, the Transportation Department reported that nearly 6,000 people were killed and a half-million were injured last year in vehicle crashes connected to driver distraction. That includes drivers talking on cell phones and texting.

"To put it plainly, distracted driving is a menace to society," Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said. "Distracted driving is an epidemic and it seems to be getting worse every year."

The meeting gathered experts to examine the potentially deadly mix of driving with cell phones, mobile devices, and other distractions that divert attention from the road. LaHood said he would offer recommendations on Thursday that could lead to new restrictions on the use of the devices behind the wheel.'

The complete Associated Press article can be found here:

What does this have to do w/ bicycling, you may ask?

For one, bicyclists have to share the road with distracted drivers.

Second of all, as mentioned in our mission statement, one of the purposes of Bic Control is to find out why bike commuter ridership in San Diego is so low. Why isn't San Diego the bicycle capital of America? Why aren't we leading in bike commuter ridership? We certainly have the weather for it. And studies continue to find that San Diegans are some of the fittest, most physically active people in the country. Something else is clearly going on here.

A very knowledgeable and professional alternative-transportation director in San Diego (whose name we'll withhold) once told the writer of this entry (before Bic Control existed as a blog) that commuters in San Diego are too afraid to ride bikes on most roads in SD, due to the high-volume and high-speed of automobile traffic on major arterials; major roads that most commuters, especially bike commuters, who are not allowed to ride on freeways, will need to access to get to work.

Is this fear warranted? Are people afraid to ride bikes on shared roadways due to the culture of driving? For arguments sake, let's assume that the culture of driving is something creates a fearful environment for would-be, potential bike commuters. Is this culture of driving a product/consequence of auto-centric urban planning/engineering? Or, is the culture of driving a behavioral condition that can "fixed" through awareness and education? Or, is it a little bit of both?

These are questions and issues, we here at Bic Control, plan to address and explore in our blog entries.

One thing that is certain--based on new research by the federal government--is that nearly 6,000 people were killed and 500,000 or a half-million people were injured in vehicle crashes connected to distracted driving. People's fears and intuition are, in fact, warranted; distracted driving kills and is an epidemic and a menace to society.

The unveiling of this new research is an appropriate opportunity to brief readers on an analysis that Bic Control is conducting on a new City of San Diego-coordinated campaign, called 'Lose The Roaditude.' The Lose The Roaditude awareness campaign is supposedly meant to address the most serious, problematic issues of automobile driving, bicycle riding, and walking socio-cultural behaviors.

What perecent of the Lose The Roaditude campaign directly addresses "distracted driving?" The answer is zero percent.

A full list of the campaign's messages can be found here:

As you'll see, zero percent of the messages address the menacing problem of distracted driving.

It's true that it is now illegal to both text and/or talk on non-hands-free cell-phone devices in the State of California, while driving. However, that doesn't mean that the problem of distracted driving is cured. The City of San Diego is not off the hook from their failure to address the distracted driving epidemic in their new tax-dollar-funded campaign. The City of SD should have done better research when determining what behaviors need to be addressed in their Lose The Roaditude campaign. According to the Highway Safety Research Center at University of North Carolina, only 1.5% of drivers' distractions are due to cell phones.

Here's the Highway Safety Research Center's breakdown of what's really distracting drivers:

Found here:

A more detailed Bic Control analysis of the Lose The Roaditude campaign will be published in the coming weeks or so, once more research is conducted.

What's clear at this point, is that the Lose The Roaditude campaign has had zero response to a socio-cultural behavioral epidemic that creates a fearful, dangerous, and deadly urban environment for all users of public roads--that being the culture of distracted driving.


  1. I am with you on distracted driving. I don't really know what the solution is. Everyone I know who drives is distracted to some extent. I can't really hold this against them because driving is pretty boring.

    Plus, the only alternative is for each driver to have their eyes glued to the road in a state of constant mindfulness. Though this would be heaven for me and for the drivers--meditating is more fun than people think--this is not the world we live in.

    It's going to take more than a sign to change ourselves. We love shiny gadgets, and we crave constant stimulation. Driving doesn't provide this.

    I have heard that talking on a cell phone distracts about the same as listening to the radio and talking to passengers. I know only a handful of people who are prepared to drive like this.

    I'm open to suggestions on how to make your ideas a reality, but this is not an easy fix. I suggest making driving more fun by making the roads more confusing. More pedestrians and cyclists should mingle with the traffic. The roads should have lots of round-a-bouts and colored, nonsense, pictures painted on the road. Mix it up a bit. Live a little. Take a chance! :)

  2. Thank you for reading and thank you very much for the constructive comment, Leroy Grinchy!

    We tried to respond but blogspot said our response was too lengthy. So, we decided to dedicate an entry to our response, titled "Advancing the Conversation: Distracted Driving and The Living Room-Mentality."

    It's available at the following link:

    Hope you don't mind.

    Please ride safe and thanks again for your excellent commentary.