Friday, 04 December 2020 13:32

Distracted Driving Skyrocketing During the Pandemic

Written by Kea Wilson, StreetsBlog USA
Distracted Driving Skyrocketing During the Pandemic Vivian Nguyen/Flickr


...and accept the inconvenience of stopping a passenger from sending a text as a small price to pay for saving thousands of lives every year.


We could also take the not-at-all-radical step of banning all cell phone use behind the wheel nationwide---something every single European country has done---while enhancing automated enforcement of the laws we’ve already got and increasing fines and license penalties, as Bermuda, the Phillipines, Qatar, and many others have already done, too.


And in the long term, we could stop allowing automakers to manufacture cars that explicitly encourage cell phone use by integrating bluetooth into on-board control centers, especially if they have touch screens---something for which top safety experts have advocated since the technology became widespread. And no, “hands-free” cell phone tech isn’t much safer.


But in a country that all but requires a private vehicle and a cell phone for participation in society, enforcement and technology-based solutions may never completely quash our distracted driving problem---and increased fines, especially, risk creating unacceptable inequities for communities of color that already dangerously over-policed.


Moreover, some experts think we wouldn’t need to rely on fines at all if we just redesigned our roads to encourage drivers to pay more attention to their surroundings.


“If you think of an interstate, everything about it is designed to minimize the need for drivers to think,” said Bill Schultheiss, vice president and director for sustainable safety at Toole Design. “It all starts there; people think they can look at their phones because everything around them is pretty predictable, and designed for them to go fast.


"And [transportation engineers], as a profession, have taken a lot of those highway design principles to city streets. As people get more and more comfortable...