Imagine this scenario. A cyclist gets run over by a vehicle and is left with a broken back. Allegations are made that the driver of the car was texting and/or distracted just prior to the accident. The cyclist needs surgery and months of rehab.
That scenario plays itself out literally weekly, somewhere in the world.
What perhaps makes this situation slightly different is that not only was the driver clearly texting while driving, but that she was more put out by the fact that the cyclist had the audacity to cause some damage to her car as a result of the collision.
Here’s the backstory – Kimberly Davis, of Port Fairy, Australia, pleaded guilty earlier this week to dangerous driving as a result of her collision with cyclist. Phone records showed that Davis had texted 44 times just prior to the accident (with a text message being received less than a minute prior to calling emergency officials indicating she had hit a cyclist). The cyclist was critically injured and suffered a severed spine. He spent three months in the hospital recovering from his injuries. Davis was fined $4500 and lost her license for 9 months.
What makes this whole situation worse is that Davis had the incredulity to not show any remorse, and moreover to be upset with the cyclist.
Davis told police investigators, “”I just don’t care because I’ve already been through a lot of bullshit and my car is like pretty expensive and now I have to fix it. I’m kind of pissed off that the cyclist has hit the side of my car.” She further went on to say, “I don’t agree that people texting and driving could hit a cyclist. I wasn’t on my phone when I hit the cyclist.”
There are a couple of issues associated with this that concern me. The first is obvious: distracted driving causes accidents. The second is the clear lack of remorse that Davis had.
There’s likely nothing that can be done about the later concern, but there certainly can be things done relative the former.
First and foremost, distracted driving should be a primary traffic offense. Police should be able to pull over and cite drivers for nothing other than distracted driving (texting, SnapChatting, Facebooking, even just calling). In far too many jurisdictions, texting while driving is a secondary offense. In Florida, for example, I can get a $30 fine for texting while driving (totaling about $100 when court costs and fees added) – but I can only get that ticket if I am pulled over for some primary offense – like speeding, careless driving, DUI, etc. If state legislatures and governments pass laws or ordinances changing this offense to a primary offense and make the fine prohibitive, then there may be a corresponding decline in the incidence rate of drivers committing this act.
In my opinion, cycling can be tough enough of a workout. We don’t need to continuously be on our guard for distracted drivers as well.