Menace to Society
Distracted driving by motorists certainly has gotten much media coverage of late due to a recent national summit. The Detroit News reported yesterday:
Secretary Ray LaHood kicked off a two-day summit on distracted driving this morning, calling it a “menace to society” and a “deadly epidemic.”
LaHood wants to crack down on texting behind the wheel and other activities that take drivers’ focus from the road as the government issued a report that said 6,000 deaths last year were linked to distracted driving.
We agree. Distracted driving is a menace to society and the ones who are most likely to pay the price are the most vulnerable: cyclists and pedestrians.
What we haven’t seen in print is the role road agencies play in accommodating distracted driving. Groups like the Road Commission for Oakland County provide wider roads and remove roadside trees in the name of safety. This PBS article discusses recent studies that show these forgiving roadways in more built up areas actually decreases safety.
Unwilling to accept Responsibility
According to the AAA Foundation, motorists have a “Do As I Say, Not As I Do” attitude.
American motorists blame other motorists for unsafe driving, despite the fact many admit to doing the same dangerous practices themselves, according to a new report out today by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. For example, Americans rated drinking drivers as the most serious traffic safety issue, yet in the previous month alone, almost 10 percent of motorists admitted to driving when they thought their blood alcohol content was above the legal limit.
And that same AAA study found:
- 82 percent of motorists rated distracted driving as a serious problem, yet over half of those same individuals admitted to talking on the cell phone while driving in the past month, and 14 percent even admitted to reading or sending text messages while driving.
- Over seven out of ten motorists rated red light running as a serious problem, yet over half of those same individuals admitted to speeding up to get through yellow lights, and 5 percent even admitted to having run a red light on purpose in the past month.
- Nearly three out of every four motorists rated speeding as a serious problem, yet 40 percent of those same individuals admitted to driving 15 mph or more over speed limit on the highway in the past month, and 14 percent even admitted to having driven 15 mph or more over the limit on a neighborhood street.
Since this is a self-reporting survey, the numbers are likely under reported.
Blaming Bicyclist Behavior
Clearly a significant number of motorists practice unsafe driving habits and either fail to recognize it or take responsibility for it. They are an unreliable source for opinions on road safety.
It seems this is lost on some bicycle advocates and organizations who tell us that bicyclists must earn the respect of motorists. This is pure nonsense.
Bicyclists that practice unsafe cycling or who break the “rules of the road” are not a menace to society. They rarely if ever cause harm to other road users. The safety priority needs to be placed on motorists and road designers.
We need to ensure our road agencies design safer, livable roads that require the driver’s attention.
For perspective, today a motorist ignored a bus stop sign and hit two school children in Rochester Hills. From a safety standpoint, this single crash is perhaps more egregious than the sum of all objectionable Michigan cyclist behavior — ever.
Any focus on bicyclist behavior must be redirected to the real menace to society.