A couple days ago a girl passed me when I was riding in Chicago. It was a snowy road and she came by at about 3 inches. That was the distance to her right rear view mirror, not her car, but the mirror would have caused much havoc. I realized by watching her from behind that she had no idea she had even passed a cyclist, let alone hit one. She was looking down into her lap, texting.
I think cell phone usage is the most danger that cyclist face now from drivers. It is unbelievable how many accidents are now “caused” by the introduction of phones in cars.
When states pass laws to ban texting while driving, it actually increases the incidences of accident according to the Highway Loss Data Institute. It makes total sense. Instead of having your phone up on the steering wheel where your eyes can see out the windshield, you have it down in your lap, looking down at your floor board. In California, the accident rate increased by 12% after a texting ban was enacted.
It’s even dangerous just talking on a phone in a car, even hands free. You’d think that isn’t the case, but I heard a Phd guy on the radio explaining the difference between talking on the phone while driving and talking to others in your car. He said the conversation ebbs and flows between occupants of a car depending upon the driving conditions. And actually, accidents decrease the more eyes on the road from occupants in a vehicle. When you’re talking on the phone, the other party has no idea what the driving conditions are, so the conversation distracts the driver. Makes sense.
So, laws are not the answer to the problem. The texting issue is not only a problem for cyclists, of course, but to everyone. It makes driving more dangerous, increases the costs of insurance for all of us, and is generally bad.
I have no idea how to fix the issue. If you can’t “take” assault rifles away from us, I’m pretty positive that people won’t put up with no cell phone usage in their automobiles. I know some phones have apps that you can voluntarily download that makes your phone not receive calls if it is moving faster than 20 mph or some speed. I looked for one for the iPhone, but didn’t see anything.
I’m as guilty as others. I try not to make a habit of texting while driving, but I do it more than occasionally. It’s not something that we’re going to voluntarily stop. So, cell phone companies, along with insurance companies, and of course, our government are going to have to do it for us. And when they do, we should applaud it. Because no matter how much we don’t like it, making the phones unusable in our cars is the best thing for all of us.