Distracted Driving: Playing a Risk for Drivers and Cyclists

I’ve been otherwise occupied by out-of-town guests this past weekend.

Not to mention dealing with a 17+ hour internet outage, which is why you didn’t see a post this morning, and I haven’t gotten around to answering my email yet.

Thanks, Verizon. 

Fortunately, Brooke Kerwin has stepped into the breach, offering her thoughts on one of my favorite topics, the ever-increasing risk posed by distracted driving.

And distracted cycling.


There’s no question that automobiles and drivers play a large risk to cyclists every day. In the last few years, technology has certainly had an effect on society, in both a positive and negative light. When it comes to transportation, technology had served as a major distraction to both drivers and cyclists everywhere.

In 2012, smart phones and other tech devices serve as a risk for those using them on their bikes, as well as a risk from people who are driving distracted. The issue of distracted driving is one that is at the forefront for a number of different bicycling advocacy groups right now. While the risk to other drivers is often spotlighted, the risk that is presented to cyclists is often overlooked.

Personally, I can say that I’m guilty of certain times becoming distracted both on a bicycle and operating an automobile. With the increase in accidents, deaths and general injuries related to distracted driving in the past few years, I’ve tried to be more cautious in both forms of transportation. There’s no doubt that this has been the general consensus, yet there’s still plenty of awareness to be had and people to reach.

Legislation is a good step forward in getting awareness of the ground and though the ultimate goal should be a nationwide restriction, it’s likely to continue to stay in the hands of individual states for the near future.

Just as many things that go back and forth between the driving and biking communities, one issue has developed in the form of whether or not texting laws should include cyclists. As someone who both drives and rides a bike, I believe it should. Texting and distracted driving have certainly played a role in a number of different injuries and accidents involving cyclists, but that doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t look to protect cyclists as well.

Already in some large cities such as Philadelphia, legislation has crossed over to include a texting ban while operating a vehicle or a bicycle. The next great move is likely to be here in California, which is a good thing because being one of the larger states in the union, what is done here is likely to be looked at closely by other states.

It’s my general thought that distracted driving and biking can only begin to come down with a combination of things coming together in the future.  It won’t just be limited to increasing legislation and influence from larger states and cities. There will also need to be continuing work to communicate the dangers that distractions and texting can cause to both drivers and cyclists.


The California legislature passed a bill last year to increase penalties for distracted drivers, while banning handheld cell phone use by cyclists, which is currently legal — despite what some websites might say.

Unfortunately, the law was vetoed by Governor Brown, who said he thinks the currently penalty is strict enough to stop most drivers from using handheld phones.

Clearly, he doesn’t get out enough.

I’ve counted ratios ranging anywhere from one in 10 to one in four drivers blissfully ignoring the ban at various times — including uniformed police officers on patrol. And nearly been hit by cyclists using theirs, as well.

Meanwhile, Chicago recently banned cyclists from texting or speaking on a handheld device while riding.

And the National Transportation Safety Board has recommended that cell phone use be banned entirely for all drivers, handheld or otherwise.

Thanks to Brooke Kerwin for the contribution.


  1. Distracted driving is a terrifying reality. And then there’s this from today’s NYTimes: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/27/health/add-and-adhd-challenge-those-seeking-drivers-license.html?hp

    • Mike_Yanagita says:

      Saw that NYT article; if it was supposed to elicit sympathy, it failed completely with me. If you’re too easily distracted to pass a driver’s test (which is already too easy), then thank god you’re not allowed on the road.

  2. […] BikingInLA Makes the Case for Tougher Anti-Distracted Driving Legislation […]

  3. Kevin Jones says:

    You may want to have a look at an article about Brooke Kerwin’s creative writing at SafetyAtWorkBlog.

    • bikinginla says:

      Thanks for the heads-up, Kevin. I wrote a correction today, and removed the link back to the site in question from the article she wrote.

%d bloggers like this: