Tag Archive for texting while driving

Sharing the road with drunks — and worse

There are certain days I try not to ride. Or if I do, I try to get out and back before the kegs and cocktails start flowing.

Like Christmas Eve. New Years Eve. Super Bowl Sunday.

And yes, St. Patrick’s Day.

Days when the risk of getting intimately acquainted with the bumper of an intoxicated driver is just too high for comfort. And not based on statistics or studies, but my own personal experience of having dodged far too many far too close calls over the years.

Lately, though, it’s become clear that there’s another roadway risk that’s not tied to the calendar or the local bar. One that seems to be a daily, and rapidly growing, occurrence.

Take Monday’s ride.

I was at the base of San Vicente Blvd in Santa Monica, waiting to make my left onto Ocean Blvd.

I watched as the driver approaching from my left signaled for a right turn. And having been fooled by far too many turn signals over the years, waited until she actually began her right before starting across the intersection

Then I jammed on my brakes as she suddenly cut back to her left, forcing the driver behind her to slam on his brakes — as well as his horn — as she blew through the stop sign in front of her.

And rolled through the very spot I would have been occupying if I hadn’t hit my brakes in time.

It was okay, though, because she gave the other driver L.A.’s ubiquitous “sorry” wave. And I’m sure she would have gladly directed it my way as well, if only she’d actually seen me.

Do I really need to mention that she was on her cell phone the whole time?

Or consider another incident from last week.

I was on Beverly Glen, waiting with a long line of cars to make the left onto Olympic Blvd. And watched in horror as a pickup coming from the other direction made a right turn onto Olympic from the opposite left turn lane, cutting off three lanes of traffic in the process.

He then drove well below the speed limit, swerving from lane to lane before finally forcing his way into the left lane, nearly leaving a demolition derby’s worth of cars strewn in his wake.

Thanks to his slow speed, I found myself stopped at the same light with him, so I looked over, expecting to see a noticeably drunk motorist behind the wheel.

Instead, he had his hands in his lap.

No, texting.

Or consider another case from later that same day, when I took my car out to run an errand.

Just a few blocks past the spot of the earlier incident, I put on my turn signal and slowed to make a right turn. And nearly got rear-ended by a driver who evidently couldn’t see the car directly ahead of him, despite the working turn signal and brake lights.

And yes, I checked.

And yes, he had his phone pressed tightly to his ear.

So what do you think my chances would have been if I’d been on a bike instead of wrapped within a rolling ton of rubber, glass and steel?

I wish these were just random events. But the fact is, simple observation suggests that the laws prohibiting handheld phones and texting behind the wheel are almost universally ignored these days — though I have noticed more drivers holding their phones in their right hands, where they would presumably be less noticeable from a passing patrol car.

Even though studies have consistently shown that talking on a cell phone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk.

And texting behind the wheel is worse.

Which brings up the problem.

We can ban dangerous behavior behind the wheel and pass all the laws we want to protect cyclists and pedestrians.

But just like the trash bins in the bike lanes on Venice Blvd — or the three-foot passing law in our neighbors to the east — it won’t make a damn bit of difference without adequate enforcement.

A little this, a little that

A few random thoughts while I get back into serious biking and blogging mode after the holidays…

So this is why they hate us. Over the weekend, my wife and I were wandering through Santa Monica, in full pedestrian mode. After awhile, we found ourselves needing to cross a busy street. So like the safety conscious, law-abiding citizens we are, we waited patiently until the light changed, then crossed in the crosswalk.

Unfortunately, not everyone shared our patience.

As we neared the other side, an oncoming cyclist apparently decided that normal traffic laws don’t apply to her. Or possibly to cyclists in general, since we didn’t have the opportunity to discuss her motivation with her.

Instead, we were busy trying to scramble out of her way after she ran the red light — despite the fact that we were directly in front of her at the time.

Now, I’m not one to insist that every rider has to obey every traffic law. Sometimes it’s safer to break the law; sometimes, strict adherence to the law just doesn’t make sense in a given situation. So even though I stop for red lights, I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not you want to stop.

But here’s a general rule of thumb: When there are people in the crosswalk directly in front of you, stop your goddam bike long enough to let them pass, for chrissake.

Loopholes in the lawI was relieved to read in the Times over the weekend that the state legislature didn’t go overboard when they banned texting while driving.

It seems that the law that went into effect on the first only bans two-way communications; that is, you can’t read or write a text or email to or from another person. (Damn, that was a complicated sentence.) But you can still text or email a corporate site or public forum — although how a cop is supposed to know whether you’re texting another person, or posting to your blog, is beyond me.

So by all means, feel free to respond to this post, or bid on that Cervelo carbon frame you’ve always wanted, while you cruise down the 405 at rush hour. (Cruise being a relative term, or course.)

And best of all, the law only concerns motorized vehicles. So while it may be illegal to text from the saddle of a Harley while you’re stopped at a red light, it’s perfectly legal to do so while you pedal down Wilshire Boulevard.

So be sure to take your iPhone with you on the next Midnight Ridazz Vegan Banana Penis ride, and text us all a photo of the cop writing you a probably unenforceable ticket for riding without a license. Or not.

Imagine no more patch kits. Finally, I was catching up on my reading the other day, when I stumbled upon this small item in the December Esquire Magazine. Evidently, a pair of French scientists have invented a form of synthetic rubber that can heal itself — automatically resealing itself in the event of a puncture or cut.

The developers envision using it to make unbreakable glassware, or — far more interesting for us Angelenos with our crumbling roadways — mixing it with asphalt to develop road surfaces that won’t crack.

And as a cyclist, my mind immediately goes to tires and tubes that won’t go flat. Allowing us to leave our patch kits, tire levers and pumps behind, once and for all.

Although that would ruin the fun for all those people who seem to derive such joy from breaking their empty beer bottles in the bike lane.

 

Ubrayj — or El Brayjereno, if you prefer — describes how to stage a coup in the LABAC. L.A. loses it’s Bike Snob, but gains an Anonymous Cyclist. Damien wants to know what kinds of stories you want StreetblogLA to cover in the coming year. Personally, I want to know why no one has chucked a brick through those damned digital billboards yet. (Not that I condone taking the law into your own hands, of course.) And Timur, in his non-cycling blog, poetically describes his language skills in architectural terms — a perfect example of why I love his writing. Borrowing his metaphorical device, though, my German is like an old refrigerator box under the overpass that someone is using to sleep in, while my Spanish is like an empty Carona six-pack at his feet. And my French is like a broken bottle of Ripple in the gutter… 

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