Almost became a modern statistic last night. About 10:00 PM Wednesday 08/26 I was walking north on 22nd after going to the movies. I nearly got creamed in the crosswalk at 56th by a car. A young girl driving east in a new Camry (no plates yet), with the lights off, texting while driving. The State Supreme Court just voided a Seattle law that made it a crime to severely injure or kill pedestrians or cyclists due to inattentive driving. So if I had been hurt or killed, she would only have gotten a traffic ticket. Didn't have my phone with me or I would have called the cops anyway. Argggh. I am very pessimistic that people's behavior (texting in the car) can be easily modified. But I'd sure like the legislature to pass a law throwing the book at drivers who hurt or kill people. I'm going to send a copy of this to Reuven Carlyle.
Almost a victim of a texting driver(28 posts)
FYI, there was a Senate Bill (SB 5838) during the last session that would have dealt with this issue. It was sponsored by our very own Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles. See http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?bill=5838&year=2009
Unfortunately, it didn't make it out of the Senate Judiciary committee. On my list of things to do is lobby for this kind of law. The reckless person who hit me should have to deal with more than just replacing his windshield, paying his ticket for running a red (and being uninsured), and having his license suspended. According to the municipal court system, said driver has already been charged with driving with a suspended license since hitting me. So if almost killing a person didn't change his behavior, perhaps some time in jail would. Even if it didn't, it sure would make me feel better.
I agree. The penalty should be more severe because I still see people texting while driving all the time. It's nuts. And she didn't have her lights on at 10 at night? She is going to kill somebody. Luckily it wasn't you.
This also might be something to bring up to Reuven Carlyle at the Farmer' Market meet and greet with him on the 30th.
I just got a call back (1:50 PM) from Rep. Carlyle's office, the staffer said he is very interested in this issue. The bill Wanna-be Dane mentions was killed by the Democratic leadership. Unfortunately I think it will take a terrible tragedy that gets lots of publicity before there is the political will to do something about it.
I was impressed at the quick response from Reuven Carlyle's staff.
I'd be a supporter of this legislation too. I've lost track of the number of times I've almost been hit by distracted drivers (while I'm crossing with a signal in a crosswalk). A lot of times they aren't even texting - they're just not paying attention to lowly pedestrians.
I ride motorcycle and am constantly amazed at the utter lack of attention some people give to driving. It's not just texting - although it scares me when I go buy someone and see them pecking at keys - but makeup, breakfast bowls, books (yes, books) and even deep conversation w/ passenger.
PAY ATTENTION when driving for gawd sake!!!
Oh, and stay out of the left lane so I can get by. :)
That's the irony, eh ballardmike? Motorcycles are (mostly) dangerous due to inattentive car drivers. You can't text, makeup, breakfast, or book on a motorcycle. Two hands on and eyes forward is the only way.
Ross, I'm sorry to hear about your near brush with death. Inattentive drivers can be a real menace. There are some laws on the books right now that could be used to prosecute under the situation you described IF there was death or serious physical harm. In the case of death, the driver could have been charged with Vehicular Homicide under the provision "driving with disregard for the safety of others" In the case of serious injury, the driver could have been charged with Vehicular Assault "by driving with disregard for the safety of others". Your story is a good reminder to all of us about being attentive. Thanks for sharing it.
Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson
But can't something be put on the books for just someone caught texting or on the cell phone that's a heck of a lot tougher than we have now? I still see drivers talking and texting all the time, and I've had several near misses myself. Does someone have to die?
Having a driver charged with 'vehicular assault' would be a small comfort to my mother.
That is a little over dramatic, I admit, but I've had a lot of near misses like Skeptic53 describes.
And who's going to admit to being on the phone AFTER they run someone over? I wouldn't mind seeing the phone ban be a primary offense, or at least some education to the drivers that they can't do it anymore.
If we already have laws on the books to prosecute people who cause harm while texting, then why do we need another law for the exact same thing? That sounds like a huge waste of legislative time (which isn't free).
Because the law says that is a secondary offense. A cop can't pull you over for talking on the phone, he has to pull you over for something else first and add on the talking on the phone citation.
The most recent study on the subject reported that you are 23 times more likely to get in an accident while texting. Not 23% or 230%, but 2300% more likely!
Blueben - As I understand it, it's a matter of degree of recklessness before a driver will be charged with vehicular assault/homicide. If the driver who hit me had been drunk or on drugs, he undoubtedly would have been charged. However, since he simply was careless when he ran the red (and was speeding according to the witness), all he gets is a civil citation. And there was no cop to witness it, so the cop who responded didn't even ticket the guy for reckless driving (which the city prosecutor and my lawyer said was a mistake).
Same for the drivers who have killed area bicyclists in the past year when they have violated traffic laws. Nothing more than a civil citation. The current laws are inadequate to address this incredible injustice. If I make an illegal u-turn without adequate care to ensure the safety of cars/bikes/peds around me and I kill someone, I deserve far greater punishment than a traffic ticket.
I didn't realize you'd been involved in a serious accident. I am glad you are here to tell the tale. Mr L was riding his bike and was hit by a left turning motorist talking on a cell phone. Motorist was cited for 'inattention to driving' It's a miracle he wasn't more seriously injured than the badly broken arm. The list of fatally or permantly injured pedestrians or cyclists mowed down by motorists who then receive a little slap is long. The lack of will do anything, whether laws or personal responsibility is very discouraging to me.
Perhaps the most audacious story of texting-while-driving that I've heard of occured last year in the UK. The speeding, texting, cellphone-yakking driver/killer claimed she could send and receive text while not removing her eyes from the road. This statement was made after she plowed into a parked car. Thank god she got sent to jail. I thought this picture, in the Daily Mail(yes, it's trash, but I love it), just summed up the whole case:
As distracted driving is already a violation of the motor vehicle code, adding a specific distraction, or elevating any said distraction above all others is specious at best. I'd like to see more enforcement of ALL distracted driving violations. The result of all of them is simply unacceptable, even if it doesn't result in someones death.
It always comes down to the lack of enforcement of existing laws as being the primary failure.
But go ahead, make yet another law to be ignored by law enforcement. What a waste of time and energy, for no real benefit. (Unless the goal is simply more revenue, you get the picture, I hope.)
Not a another, law, Chopper, a better law. What we have now isn't preventing any accidents. Right now, as pointed out earlier here a driver can only be cited as being on a cell phone if stopped for something else first. They have plenty of time to hang up before the cop taps on the window. And, as SPG said, who is going to admit to being distracted after they caused a serious accident?
Have you noticed how many people are back to using their phones while driving? ALL OF THEM. Everyone's realized that the law isn't being enforced so why bother obeying it?
Well, I'll stand by the lack of enforcement to existing laws is the issue.
Until there is enforcement, no law will fix any issue.
And, when enforced, the penalty, if any, just isn't enough of a deterrent.
I don't care if you are wolfing down a cheeseburger, or texting, or applying eye-liner, it has to be handled and enforced as distracted driving.
People are just so cavalier about driving in general, it's very disconcerting.
Absolutely right. The penalty as it stands isn't enough. A better, more easily enforced, law is needed. I see a lot people doing stupid things while driving (yes, including putting on make-up) but cell phone calls and texting are about 90% of the stupidity I see.
And while we're at it, can we get a law on the books about walking while texting? So many moron pedestrians I've watched step off of a curb while busily looking down at a text. I know that might be regarded as 'culling the herd' but the driver who runs these idiots down is going to be haunted by it the rest of their lives.
Sorry, I'm a little cranky today.
Sorry to hear that Nora Bell. Hug a kitty ;-)
My cats have special mood sensors so they're keeping their distance today. So I think I'll text (while walking) my mom to see if she'll meet for a beer. That may help. :-)
There was a very compelling article in the New York Times about an anti-texting&driving bill that passed in Utah despite the state's usual reluctance to pass these kinds of regulations:
One way to work for a solution is to join up and ask our lawmakers together. If we can get enough people to join a group like this, share their stories, and as a group push for tougher penalties, or more enfocement, maybe we can reverse the idea that it is okay to text and drive, talk on the cell phone and drive, or be otherwise impaired while operating a deadly vehicle.
...and if you haven't tried it yet, check out the NY Times interactive online text messaging game:
I'd be amazed if anyone can text and correctly make every gate.
For those who feel "we don't need another law, we need to enforce the laws we have", there are three points to make. First is the difficulty enforcing the current laws. From the NYT article about Utah:
- "But if those prosecutors want to charge a texting driver with recklessness, they must prove the driver knew of the risks before sending texts from behind the wheel.
In Utah, the law now assumes people understand the risks.
The law “is very noteworthy,” said Anne Teigen, a policy specialist with the National Conference of State Legislatures, an organization of state legislators. “They have raised the bar and said texting while driving is not just irresponsible, and it’s not just a bad idea — it is negligent.”"
Second point is how much more dangerous texting is than drunk driving, talking on a phone, or other forms of distracted driving.
Third point is how common texting and driving has become.
I agree that there should be a blanket category for injuring/killing someone while driving distracted no matter what the distraction. But I think, based on the 3 points above, we do need a different penalty. Making texting & driving ipso facto negligent driving would make a huge difference.
A) Enforcing the current laws does not address texting very well as they are not about texting specifically. The utility of such a new law, then, is not really related to how well other laws are enforced.
B) It won't be that daunting to enforce the texting law.
C) Even if laws are difficulty to enforce, they express a collective expression of disapproval about a behavior, and that has value in changing that behavior.
D) We find ways to improve enforceability. Drunk driving was once rather difficult to enforce in a consistent, precise way. Now we have blood alcohol testers and so forth.
E) Having such books on the laws, I would guess, makes it easier to pursue civil action as well. Get a few good finding against people for killing sons and daughter that cost them $10 million, and people start to be a little less flippant about texting while driving.
F) That's it, there is no F so why are you even reading this part??
I was almost hit by a simple gabbing driver on 8th........can;t say I have never done it, though.
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