Time To Act!

Every motorcyclist, whether their riding experience spans 4 months or 40 years, can relate stories of how cagers (somebody driving a 4-wheeled vehicle) did something stupid that put their safety as a rider in jeopardy. My experience confirms that the greatest danger out on the roads for bikers is stupid drivers; with stupid having many subcategories. I've seen them all: the 17-year old laughing and joking around in a car filled with friends and not paying any attention to what he or she is doing; arrogant 40-year old self-important jerks who think that their schedule and needs supersede everybody elses; and sweet but dangerous little old ladies who unfortunately are no longer capable of safely driving a car on public roads.

Many groups have formed to help the fight against one dangerous category - drunk drivers: Students Against Drunk Driving (SADD), Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and others try to draw attention to that particular problem. Bikers don't discriminate against just drinking drivers - we despise dumb drivers in general - and cover it all with BADD - Bikers Against Dumb Drivers!

I'm going somewhere with this. The latest group of very dangerous dumb drivers are those who use cell phones while driving for both talking and texting. Texting while driving has been proven by studies at Virginia Tech and Car and Driver magazine to be MORE dangerous than operating a vehicle while drunk! The studies found that drivers' reaction time is slower while texting than while driving drunk. And obviously the danger goes far beyond just reaction time. When someone is texting on a cell phone they are looking at the phone, not where they're going. This creates the reality of cars crossing center lines, slamming into a stopped vehicle, going off the road, and many other life-threatening scenarios.
According to the Wireless Association, more than 1 trillion text messages were sent by users in all situations in 2008, triple the number sent in 2007. The U. S. Department of Transportation recently reported that almost 6,000 drivers are killed each year due to distracted driving, which includes texting.

Enough Already!!
It is time that a national law prohibiting use of cell phones while driving be passed - or at the very minimum, that a law banning texting while driving be instituted. I don't have the statistics to prove this beyond observations and conversations with other drivers, but I believe that the drivers who text the most are exactly those with the least experience and ability behind the wheel; i.e. young and inexperienced new drivers.

Fact is, I don't want any one of these impaired drivers, be they 17 or 97, killing me or another motorcyclist, or any innocent person for that matter.

If Congress or individual state legislatures on their own initiative won't pass laws banning texting while driving, we need to start applying pressure to make it happen.

A quick check shows that only ten states have passed laws banning texting by all drivers, regardless of age, while operating a motor vehicle. These are: WA, CA, UT, MN, TN, LA, VA, CT, NJ, and AK. If you live in one of those states consider yourself fortunate and well served (at least in this particular issue) by your state government.

Seven other states have passed anti-texting laws that apply to novice drivers under age 18. It's a start but definitely inadequate!

The rest of us live in the wild, wild, west as far as texting and chatting cell phone drivers are concerned.
If you live in Michigan now is the time to contact your rep and senator. HB 4394 is going through the legislative process. It's an imperfect bill because it defines a violation of the law as a secondary offense, meaning that even if a police officer sees somebody driving down the road texting on their phone they couldn't pull them over unless they saw a primary violation at the same time - speeding, weaving, or some other violation for which an officer can legally stop somebody.

Proving the cause of a vehicle accident beyond doubt isn't always possible, but it is estimated that 150 people die each year in Michigan because of the driver, or another driver, talking or texting.
The MI bill would prohibit people from reading, writing or sending a text message while operating a vehicle. Violators could receive a fine of up to $100, and they would receive no points on their driving record. A weak law, but perhaps it'll be a first step toward stopping this sort of dangerous behavior.

Some quick and likely incomplete research indicates that six other states have bills introduced that would restrict texting in some manner if enacted. Riders in these states - OR, CO, IL, AR, VT and MD - need to contact their legislators and apply pressure now. Depending on the state, some enrolled bills die at the end of the legislative session if not enacted into law, so there isn't much time left in the year to act.

I have no problem with intelligent people making decisions that put themselves at risk - in fact I think it is part of the human experience. Whether downhill skiing, sky diving, motorcycling, rock climbing, extreme sports, or whatever - if you've got the ability, desire, and brains to do it then go for it! I've certainly done my share of things that may have seemed lacking in common sense to others but which I found to be enjoyable or challenging. But don't put others in danger because of your activities or stupidity. That's my only caveat.