Florida could outlaw all forms of distracted driving

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida could outlaw drivers from putting on makeup, holding a cellphone, reading or performing other distracting activities under a bill unanimously approved by a Senate committee.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee approved the measure after heart-wrenching testimony from parents whose children that have been killed in accidents caused by districted drivers.

Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson said distracted driving has become an epidemic in Florida, and not just involving cars hitting other cars.

“Bike riding, hiking, jogging – all of those things – we’ve had record numbers of deaths in this state by distracted driving,” Simpson said.

Right now, it is illegal to text and drive in Florida, but drivers can only be ticketed if they are first pulled over for another reason. Simpson’s bill would make distracted driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement wouldn’t need another reason to ticket a driver. If enacted, Florida would ease into the law by creating a three-month period where law enforcement would only give warnings. After Dec. 1, police would be able to issue tickets.

Hands-free cellphone use would be allowed, and drivers would be able to check their phones as long as their cars aren’t moving, such as at a stop light or while idling in a parking lot.

Law enforcement officers would also have to record the race and ethnicity of ticketed drivers and an annual report would have to be given to the governor, House speaker and Senate president. Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy asked for that provision to be included due to concerns that a distracted driving ban could be used for racial profiling.

Several parents who lost children in accidents urged the committee to approve the bill. Debbie Wanninkhof said her 25-year-old son, Patrick, died in an accident caused by a driver using a cellphone.

“We need to wake up to the danger of wireless communication device addicts,” she said. “Cellphone use … is an addiction for many. You hear the stimulus of a ping and you immediately grab the phone and you respond instantly. It happens over and over again, and just like a drug addiction, it can be deadly.”

The Senate bill has been unanimously approved in its first two of four committee stops. A similar House bill hasn’t been heard in committee yet, but House sponsor Rep. Jackie Toledo said House Speaker Jose Oliva has promised it will get a hearing.

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More Kids Hit at Bus Stops, 6 Accidents in 3 Days

The number of accidents at school bus stops is on the rise as drivers continue to ignore safety rules.

More children have been hit by cars while waiting for a school bus, this time in Florida and Pennsylvania. That makes six accidents at school bus stops in three days across the country.

According to station WTSP, five children and two adults were all hit by a car while waiting at a school bus stop in Tampa. Three of the children were 6 years old, one was 9 and the other was 12. The adults were both in their early 30s. All the people hit by the car were hospitalized AND two children remained in the hospital, according to WTSP. Investigators say the 47-year-old Tampa man driving the car that hit the group did not seem impaired at the time of the incident.

Also, a 7-year-old child was found on the ground with fatal injuries by a school bus driver at a bus stop in Pennsylvania. Tyrone Area School District Superintendent Cathy Harlow said on Facebook that the apparent hit-and-run happened before school. She also said, “the bus driver on route arrived at the stop discovering the situation, contacted 911 and remained at the scene until first-responders arrived.” State police are still looking for the driver, according to NBC 10.

An 11-year-old and a 13-year-old were hit in Louisville, Kentucky around 6:30 a.m. The two young brothers were hit by an unknown driver while crossing a busy intersection. Kentucky police are still looking for the driver.

Two other incidents happened in Florida and Mississippi. Twin boys and their big sister were hit by a car while boarding a school bus in Indiana. A fourth child was struck as well. Xzavier and Mason Ingle, both 6, and Alivia Stahl, 9, were pronounced dead at the scene of the crash in Fulton County. The fourth child, 11-year-old Maverik Lowe, was airlifted to Parkview Hospital in Fort Wayne with life-threatening injuries.

Sgt. Tony Slocum of the Indiana State Police said that the Tippecanoe Valley School corporation students were hit by a pick-up truck even though the bus was stopped with its lights flashing and its “STOP” arm extended. The pickup truck’s driver, 24-year-old Alyssa Shepherd, was arrested at her job just after 4 p.m., Indiana State Police said in a news release. Shepherd remained at the scene after the crash and cooperated with investigators. Her blood test did not indicate that alcohol or drugs played a factor, according to Gannett. Shepherd was charged with multiple felony counts of reckless homicide and one misdemeanor count of passing a school bus when an arm signal device is extended, causing bodily injury, court records show.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were about 1,300 people killed in school transportation-related accidents between 2006 and 2015. About 100 of those victims were classified as school-age pedestrians. 64 percent of the children killed were stuck by a bus or a vehicle serving as a bus, while 36 percent were hit by other vehicles, the administration said.

What if these were your children or family members? It’s up to each one of us to ensure our children make it to school and back safely. Remove distractions from your driving and pay attention to what’s happening all around you. These kids are victims because drivers are putting on makeup, holding a cellphone, reading or performing other distracting activities. None of these reasons is worth a life.

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Everyone is a Pedestrian

The U.S. is holding steady with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed in 2017

After two years of marked increases, the number of pedestrian fatalities in the U.S. is holding steady with nearly 6,000 pedestrians killed in 2017, according to estimates from the Governors Highway Safety Association. Most crashes involving pedestrians occur at non-intersections. Crossing Rules

Most of us cross streets every day. We are all pedestrians at one time or another, and we take for granted that we can cross without incident because, most of the time, we do. But sometimes we aren’t so fortunate.

Nationally, each year about 6,000 pedestrians die and 70,000 are injured in traffic accidents. Young children and the elderly are more likely to be killed or injured in a pedestrian crash than any other group. While it’s easy to blame drivers, they are not always responsible for these accidents. All too often, pedestrians are the cause of accidents.

These senseless tragedies don’t have to happen. Review this advice for safe street crossing to avoid potential injuries—and even death.

Always follow these steps when crossing a street:

  • Before crossing, stop at the curb, edge of the road or corner before proceeding.
  • Look left-right-left and over your shoulder for turning vehicles. If it’s clear, begin crossing.
  • Continue to check for traffic while crossing.

Pedestrian Tips

  • At intersections with traffic lights and pedestrian signals, it’s important to follow the signals carefully. Locate and press the crosswalk button, wait until you see the WALK signal and follow the rules for crossing. Always stow your cellphone when crossing the street and keep your head up.

  • A flashing DON’T WALK signal indicates you shouldn’t start to cross the street. However, if you are in the middle of the street and the DON’T WALK signal starts flashing, continue walking; you have time to complete the crossing.

  • If you see a steady DON’T WALK signal, don’t begin to cross the street! Wait for the next WALK signal. The WALK signal and the green traffic light indicate that it’s your turn to cross the street, but they do not mean it is safe to cross. The WALK signal and the green light mean: Look both ways, and then if it’s safe, go. Make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you as you cross. 

  • At night, wear light colors and walk where the streetlights will illuminate you.

Driver Tips

  • Be sure to stop before the crosswalk. This is a no-car zone.

  • When the light turns green, go slow, check your surroundings and proceed with caution. Make eye contact with pedestrians to ensure it’s safe to continue through the intersection.

  • At night, reduce your ground-speed. Always turn on your headlights when visibility is low and use your turn signal to let others know where you’re heading.
  • Pavement Markings Are Your Road Map to Safely Crossing

Crosswalks

While they won’t protect pedestrians from oncoming traffic, crosswalks do serve to guide pedestrians across the street. Motorists are reminded to look for and to yield to pedestrians in the road when they see the bright, white lines of a crosswalk.

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Federal Government Spends $172K on Fighting Distracted Pedestrians


New York State is considering a ban on the use of electronic devices while crossing streets. Above, a jogger in New York City. Credit Richard Perry/The New York Times

The National Institutes of Health is spending over $170,000 studying how to crack down on distracted pedestrians looking at their phones when crossing the street by sending people warning messages on their phones to look at while they cross the street.

The study, being conducted by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, also involves tracking what college students are doing on their smartphones when they are near an intersection.

Researchers said an uptick in pedestrian deaths is likely linked to increased cell phone use. The proposed solution is sending an alert to the pedestrian’s phone, which would then prompt them to look at the phone just as they are about to cross a busy intersection.

“Unlike most medical conditions, the pedestrian injury rate is currently increasing in the United States,” according to the grant for the project. “This project will study the efficacy of an intervention to reduce distracted pedestrian behavior using smartphone technology.”

“Over 4,800 American pedestrians die annually, a figure that is currently increasing,” the grant states. “One hypothesized reason for the increasing trend in pedestrian injuries and deaths is the role of mobile technology in distracting both pedestrians and drivers. Existing behavioral interventions to reduce distracted pedestrian behavior are few.”

“We propose to develop and then evaluate Bluetooth beacon technology as a means to alert and warn pedestrians when they are approaching dangerous intersections, reminding them to attend to the traffic environment and cross the street safely rather than engaging with mobile technology,” the grant explains.

Bluetooth technology will be placed at intersection corners that will send college students an alert through an app, with a message, sound, or vibrating warning. The app might also freeze a user’s cell phone screen when crossing the street.

For research purposes, the app also will download data concerning the users’ behavior while crossing the street,” the grant states, including if a user stops using their phone, puts it in their pocket, or leaves music on.

The project began on Sept. 1 and has received $172,321 from taxpayers. Research will continue through August 2020. Check out this article from The New York Times on how “States; Lawmakers Turn Attention to the Dangers of Distracted Pedestrians”
https://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/26/us/26runners.html

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Defensive Driving Tips

These simple precautions can help ensure you enjoy the ride — as well as the destination.

Want to make the roads safer, while protecting you, your loved ones and your car? Take the first step by honing your defensive driving skills. These tips can help you become more fully engaged in your journeys and stay safe behind the wheel.

Keep Looking Ahead

Be sure to look as far ahead as you are able. All too frequently when people are behind the wheel, they are only concerned the direct area in front of them. While the first few feet in front of your car is its own type of danger zone, especially if there is a hazard of any kind on the road, looking ahead and around is also important. This will allow you ample response time for anything that is coming your way.

Check Your Mirrors

Scan the horizon and continuously check your mirrors. Your eyes should always be moving and taking in as much information as possible. For example, if you notice that the car in front of you is slowing down, start braking. If you are fixated only on the car in front of you, you might not notice another car coming into your lane, which could result in an accident.

Stay Alert and Take Breaks if Needed

Take your required breaks and avoid drowsy driving. Drowsiness can lead to dangerous driving behavior like drifting out of your lane, not braking when needed, and crashing.

Avoid Distractions

Keeping your eyes up means keeping them off devices and distractions in the vehicle. Driver distraction doubled the risk of having a vehicle collision according to research from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI). They identified some of the riskiest distractions as using a cell phone, reading and writing, reaching, using a touchscreen, as well as being fatigued, emotional, and interacting with another passenger in the vehicle.

Another VTTI study of commercial vehicle operations showed that texting and driving “raises a heavy-truck driver’s risk of a safety-critical event by 23 times.”

Locking away the phone and keeping objects out of the front seat to avoid temptation are just two ways to minimize distraction and increase overall safety.

Be Prepared for Anything

Being prepared means taking note of the weather or road conditions and then driving to the conditions. Driving at the posted speed limit may be fine in sunny weather, but if it’s snowing or raining hard, that same speed will be too fast. Preparedness also means watching the traffic and being ready to adjust your driving. Don’t forget to check the areas along the road and up onto the sidewalks, in case a pedestrian or animal might cross your path.

Just like having a emergency plan at home, you should always have a plan for emergencies while driving. Having an idea of how you will react in possible situations and preparing for them in advance, will help you to avoid potentially life threatening situations. Having an escape plan can be as simple as making sure that you always have space around your vehicle in case you need to swerve to avoid some type of hazard. The more prepared you are before the emergency, the more likely it will be that you will avoid it.

Leave Space and Keep Your Distance

Although there are some things about driving you can’t control, you can control the distance between you and the next car in front of you. This is unique because you do not have this ability with any other side of your vehicle. Because this is the only distance that you can control, you should be aware of how closely you are following the vehicle in front of you. Also, beware of driving in a pack.

It’s a fact that trucks need a lot more time and space to stop. A passenger vehicle weighing 4,000 lbs and driving 65 mph takes 316 ft to stop. A tractor-trailer weighing 80,000 lbs, driving at 65 mph, will take 525 ft to stop — that’s equivalent to the length of two football fields!

To ensure that you maintain the best following distance, you will want to take certain factors into account:

  • the type of vehicle in front of you,
  • your speed,
  • and the weather conditions.

For example, a small motorcycle will be able to stop much faster than a larger vehicle, so you want to be sure to leave more distance. How fast are you traveling? If you are traveling at 100 mph, it will take much more time and distance to stop than if you were traveling at 25 mph. If the roads are wet from rain or icy from a recent snow, you will need to keep more space between your truck and other the vehicle. You always want to be sure that there is enough room in front of you to stop, regardless of the conditions, to avoid a collision.

Whether you’re exploring the countryside with your best pal or merely driving your kids to school, your car can be a gateway to lots of memorable moments. These simple precautions can help ensure you enjoy the ride — as well as the destination.

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Car Crashes

40 people died in St. Pete car crashes in 2018, the deadliest year on record.

When you examine car crashes, you must understand one thing, they just don’t happen. Driving skills are becoming less important as we head to more and more ridiculous safety features. If you want to decrease traffic crashes, take the millions invested in driverless cars and put that money into creating better drivers.

Driving is a skill that is learned and must be practiced constantly behind the wheel. The issue regarding driver education is that if your taught to drive by a fool-now we have 2 fools on the road.

Driving must be taught by the great drivers of the world, which by the way is only 25% of the driving population. They didn’t become great by accident. They were taught by someone with great driving skills and they put that education into practice. When you’re driving, you must be aware of everything that is always going on around you, not just occasionally, but all the time. If I had to pick one thing that I could instill in new drivers, it would be to focus on the big picture of driving.

What are drivers doing that are behind you, alongside you and coming head on towards you? That’s what will make the difference in that decision that will save your life. Remember cars that are approaching you at 60 mph, are traveling at almost 90 feet per second. You are traveling at 90 feet per second, so you are closing at 180 feet per second. If you are talking on
the phone or worse texting, you will cross the center line or run the red light and it will happen in a split second.

            Drive like everyone else’s life depends on your actions, because the truth of the matter is that most head on collision are nothing more than not paying attention to your driving. It’s no different than if you took a gun and killed someone. You have no right and the reality is that it’s all avoidable if we increase our driving skills. Be that GREAT DRIVER!

Here’s a local news story for St. Pete that illustrates the need for great drivers:
https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/driving-tampa-bay-forward/40-people-die-in-st-pete-car-crashes-the-deadliest-year-on-record

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