Gone Fishin'

HEY!

I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!

8.24.2010

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Distracted Drivers

My riding position often enables me to see into the car in front of me, and what I typically see disturbs me. When over half of the vehicles I observe come to a stop, the driver's right hand raises some kind of electronic device into his/her field of vision. Their world shrinks to their right thumb, their eye, and that little screen of whatever gadget has become so critical that IT must be concentrated on rather than the operation of the two ton machine that can kill people. At one particular intersection I ride through, the stop is followed by a downhill and I often end up in sync with the same cars. So I have been able to observe that when the cars start moving, the gadgets don't get stowed.

The point of all this is that from my perspective, if you are using a handheld anything while driving, there is going to be some element of distraction, and it's a risk. Whether it's an acceptable risk or not might be up for debate, but in at least one recent case, the Vermont Supreme Court found that distracted driving amounted to gross negligence when a driver who was looking at her GPS collided with a cyclist in the breakdown lane. (She hit him from behind, which is actually one of the rare car-cyclist collisions to happen, even though it is one many cyclists fear most.)

Not a picture of the actual incident. 
According to the Burlington Free Press, "the court called the case "close," but said Carlin's alleged inattention could be considered gross negligence because the bicyclist was clearly visible."


I can't find the opinion to read it just yet, but I'm guessing that the court's reliance on the bicyclist being visible means that they were not able to prove that she was looking at the GPS at the time, even though it's most likely that she was. Interestingly enough, a Google search of the distracted driver's name shows that she is working as a legal assistant in a Springfield, Massachusetts law firm, where, according to their website, she specializes in "the firm's car accidents, personal injuries and worker's compensation claims."


Anyway, distracted driving stinks. It has certainly contributed to a number of unsafe driver interactions I've had over the last couple of years, and I'm glad to court found negligence in this case. I hope it serves as a warning to others, who might think about automatically picking up that phone/iPod/Gps/Egg McMuffin the moment they get behind the wheel.