Drivers want less talk, more law enforcement action

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Bicyclists staged an educational campaign in Annapolis on Monday. (Photo by Ashley Halsey)

An interesting response comes from north of the border, where Canadian authorities are launching a month-long advertising blitz about the dangers of distracted driving.

Forget about it, say drivers in Vancouver, and start cracking down on people who drive with their phone glued to their ear. “I don’t think people pay attention to the campaigns,” one driver tells a local radio station.

She’s right: people who ignore publicity respond to the threat of penalties. Fear of flashing red lights in the rear-view mirror trumps a TV ad every time. There are plenty of studies to back that up. Among the most famous, almost anyone of a certain age remembers the “buckle up for safety” jingle that blanketed the airwaves when seat belts began appearing in cars. But the experts will tell you hardly anyone buckled up until the “Click it or Ticket” campaign came along. Mothers Against Drunk Driving launched a very effective campaign, but the clincher in giving tipsy drivers second thoughts were sobriety check points and the prospect of big fines and lost licenses.

Closer to home, bicyclists are pushing for changes. In Delaware, cycling advocates asked the state to drop the “Share the Road” slogan that dates back to the “buckle up for safety” era and seems equally ineffective.

” Many motorists see it as an admonition to cyclists not to ride in the center of a travel lane,” James Wilson, executive director of Bike Delaware wrote to the state’s chief highway engineer. “Many cyclists see it as a message to motorists that, if they are riding in the center of a travel lane for one reason or another, that faster-moving motorists should cautiously and patiently maneuver around them. This confusion causes motorists and cyclists to trade pointless and time-wasting accusations back and forth.”

In Maryland, there is a push for enforcement of the state’s three-foot law, which requires that drivers allow a minimum of three feet in distance as they attempt to pass a bike rider. Cyclists have been campaigning to raise public awareness and encourage enforcement after a cyclist was killed on a narrow two-lane road last month. The driver attempted to pass the cyclist while cresting a hill, and it was reported that she swerved back into the bike rider when an oncoming car came over the hill.

Eagerness to get around another cyclist, this one in Northwest D.C., lead the rider, Nicholas Clements, to post this question on Facebook on Wednesday.

“Today, while cycling along Beach Drive, a van passed so close that I was knocked off the road. I managed to get the phone number off the side of the van that belonged to an electric company. I called it. It turned out to be not just the owner but the driver of the van. He told me it was a choice between me or a head on collision. He chose the latter. He told me he did a similar thing earlier today. Suggestions on what can be done?”

The fatal crash, in which high school coach and mother of three, Trish Cunningham, was killed, lead computer whiz Chris Kaplan to create a calculator to determine how much time a driver would lose if forced to slow to the speed of a cyclist for any given distance. Click here to use it.

 

 

Ashley Halsey reports on national and local transportation.
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Robert Thomson | September 5, 2013