driven to distraction

Many of you, I’m sure, have by now read Bob Mionske’s Road Rights column from the March issue of Bicycling, “Cell Drunk.” A local cycling advocate in Adrian, Jim Dickson, who organizes the Ride of Silence in our area, contacted one of the researchers, Dr. Frank Drews, of the University of Utah’s Applied Cognition Laboratory in Salt Lake City, to get some additional information. Here is Dr. Drews’ response to Jim’s query:

Drivers talking on a cell phone are usually about 4 times more likely to get into an accident compared to drivers who are not distracted. We also compared cell phone drivers with intoxicated drivers and found 3 times more accidents when drivers were talking on a cell phone.

We think that the effect of a cell phone conversation while driving is comparable to intoxicated driving.

Drivers who texted where 6 times more likely to be involved in an accident compared to the control group of drivers who were not distracted.

Also, I am also a cyclist and am really worried about the dangers that distracted drivers create for us as a very vulnerable group of participants in traffic. Here in SLC we have the Josie Johnson memorial ride (who was the sister of one of my collaborators) in memory of another cyclist who was killed by a probably distracted driver.

The full report on the impact of texting while driving is available online for those interested, as are other reports on driving distractions. NPR also ran a story on their findings recently.

While I’m not particularly surprised by this, I find it terribly unsettling. When I’m riding on the road, I’m very alert, but I’m rarely anxious. These findings are sure to change that a little, at least for a while, and from time to time in the future.

What are your thoughts? What are we, as cyclists, to do?

Ever since I posted my letter to the editor, I’ve found myself increasingly frustrated and even aggravated by the fact that, for example, I cannot go anywhere on my bicycle that does not involve riding on M-52. Motorists travel at speeds of 35-45 m.p.h. along that road, north of Siena Heights Dr. Unfortunately, it’s a state-owned and state-controlled road, which only amplifies the difficulty and number of obstacles that stand in the way of getting any kind of changes made or infrastructure built to protect cyclists.

An attractive alternative would be to connect Mill Rd. to Island Park with a paved bike path. Ideally, the next step would then be create a designated bike lane along Bent Oak Ave. and Siena Heights Dr. from the intersection of Bent Oak Ave. and the Kiwanis Trail to at least Broad st., if not all the way to the campus of Siena Heights University.

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One response to “driven to distraction

  1. I still find it hypocritical of motorists to complain about cyclists when a vast majority of them are so very distracted themselves. Very few pay attention to the road, rather they’re busy talking on the phone or texting, drinking/eating etc. Granted not all cyclists follow the rules either. Example: cyclists that purposely ride like maniacs in spots they shouldn’t be, too close to vehicles, riding in the wrong lane/wrong direction, without reflectors/lights, no helmet etc. Fortunately there are more good than bad and I hope that in time others will do things the right way. I applaud those that do.