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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