No More Excuses for Hand-held Cell Phones in Washington State

As of tomorrow –July 23, 2017 — it will be against the law for Washington State drivers to use hand-held cell phones while they are driving. This applies to all electronic devices, including tablets, laptops and video games. Tickets for driving while using hand-held electronics will go on a driver’s record and be reported to their insurance provider:

Even if you’re stopped at a light;

Or your kid is texting you;

Or you just need to check the score;

Or tell someone you’re running late.

Photo of an attractive bridge in the scenically beautiful Washington State.
Washington State, in the north west corner of the USA is wonderful for scenic drives and is also very actively fighting road deaths. Copyright image.

For further information on the new law, see:

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief InstructorAdvanced Drivers of North America

Many cell phone drivers say they wouldn’t quit calling even if they caused a crash

Forty percent of drivers say that even if they caused a collision, it would not stop them using cell phones while driving, according to new research.

Photo of driver usings a hand-held cell phone at the wheel.
Not only using a hand-held cell phone while driving but also at an intersection and with an arm across the driver’s airbag due to one-handed steering. So a collision is more likely, as are greater injuries because of the bad steering. (The drivers face is deliberately blurred.)  Copyright image.

You can read much more about this research, and the fact that it is from the RAC  in Britain, should by no means lead to it being dismissed as irrelevant in the USA simply because it’s not from America.  Clearly, problems of this nature are immensely dangerous worldwide and we should all be looking to learn from our international contemporaries.

The excessively high proportion of drivers who make this outrageous claim that even causing a collision wouldn’t stop them making calls when driving needs to be taken very seriously indeed.  It is in some ways similar to the old attitude towards drunk driving in Britain but a persistent and calculated programme to defeat the problems from drinking and driving has proved extremely successful at changing the overall attitude in the UK so this would appear to be the route we need to follow once more.

Since March 1, 2017, drivers in Britain have faced stricter penalties for illegal handheld phone use, with both the higher fine of £200 (US $260) and number of penalty points being doubled to six (meaning that anyone caught committing this offence twice within a three-year period would almost certainly be disqualified/suspended from driving).

The Power of the Behavioral ‘Nudge’ – Is it Usable on US Drivers?

The attached article and video show a story about Kenyan bus drivers and their matatus, which between them have a truly dreadful crash record.  The story does, however, illustrate the power of speaking up against bad driving so, without triggering any ‘rage’ incidents, can you think of any ways that this approach could be used to discourage people from driving badly here in the USA?

One that springs to mind is to tell a friend or loved one that if either they drink alcohol or drive too fast you won’t ride with them because it is too frightening.  (It may be best not to say “too dangerous” because that can be seen as confrontational — accusing a person of being a dangerous driver.)

Nasty Wounds Class as “Lucky” if a Cell Phone User Hits You with his Truck (UK)

July 7, 2017

Given what could have been the outcome, it is still outrageous that these nasty wounds have to be thought of as the young victim being “lucky” but there can be no doubt that he is indeed lucky to be alive.

Skin and flesh injuries from being dragged along the road by a vehicle.

The incident, a couple of days ago, involved a truck that struck this young man and his bicycle then dragged them along the road, wedged under the front bumper.  The truck driver allegedly didn’t know that he had hit anything and kept on driving until another driver, having seen what had happened, pulled into the path of the truck to force it to stop.

When the police arrived, it is said that they arrested the truck driver for being on his cell phone at the time of the collision.

The facts will presumably be established in court, and an immensely valuable law in Britain prohibits the publication in the meanwhile of anything which could prejudice the outcome of the court case, thus preventing “trial by media” and any inability to find unbiased people to serve on juries.  Sub Judice (pronounced “sub judiss-ay”) is a law of fairness and all countries would benefit from using a valid equivalent to it.

If the man is found guilty of having the collision while using a cell phone then we can probably expect him to go to prison.  The laws and punishments for such actions tend to be much tougher in Britain (and many other countries) than in the USA.

Eddie Wren, CEO & Chief Instructor — Advanced Drivers of North America

Driving: The USA Continues to Get it Wrong with Roundabouts

Background: Traffic circles — which are not the same thing as roundabouts — were first used in Roman times, for chariots.  ‘Modern roundabouts’ (the correct technical name) were first invented and put to use in Britain in the mid-1960s.  The USA stuck with traffic circles and in some states ‘rotaries’ (also different) until early in this new, 21st Century and even now some states are still in this hiatus.

Why build roundabouts at all?  The reasons are overwhelming.  Using roundabouts improves traffic flow on busy roads or at previously-complex intersections, and — even more importantly — they reduce the occurrence of fatal and serious-injury crashes by well over ninety percent because they prevent T-bone/right-angle collisions, which in turn are extremely dangerous to vehicle occupants.

An excellent ‘map’ sign, showing the layout and exit-destinations of a roundabout in Washington State. (This is clearly a roundabout where painting arrows on the road/pavement surface could be very confusing.) Copyright, 2015.

Situation:  Many of America’s new ‘modern roundabouts’ — and I have encountered a lot in the many states in which I have instructed defensive- and advanced driving — are usually well-designed, except for three extremely important factors.

What are the problems that concern us?

Another roundabout – this time Wixom, MI – but while the green ‘map’ sign is quite good, it would have been better further away from the roundabout to give drivers more time to view it and react in plenty of time. Copyright, 2014.

The first is the fact that most roundabouts, to this day, in the USA do not have what one might call ‘map’ or ‘layout’ signs on each approach, showing drivers well in advance the exit they will need from the roundabout, to reach their destination.  It is both arrogant and dangerous to assume that the drivers in any location are *all* local and all know which way to go at any intersection.  And given that many drivers are still very uncomfortable on roundabouts — at least in part because of our third concern, below — anything that risks a driver swerving late to the right to take the exit they need, or swerving left, equally late, to stay on the roundabout when they were preparing to exit from it, is clearly dangerous and can cause collisions.  Whether or not a collision results, such incidents serve to reinforce people’s fear of roundabouts and are therefore doubly damaging.

To drivers who are not used to roundabouts, a sudden mass of white markings and arrows on the road surface can be overwhelming. At this location, in Albany, NY, vehicles entering this roundabout from the left side of the photo and going three-quarters of the way round the roundabout to where the semi-tractor-trailer is at in this photo, actually have to cross a solid white line between lanes on the roundabout but vehicles are not meant to cross solid white lines! Very confusing and, we would suggest, unacceptable! Copyright, 2014

Our second concern follows from the first, in that the various lanes on American roundabouts do not always follow a set regime regarding which lane one should take for going left (properly described as being “more than half way around the roundabout”), going straight ahead, or turning right.  In the absence of the above-mentioned map/layout signs, drivers only discover at the very last moment, just a few yards before reaching the actual roundabout, which lane they need to be in, and when this happens, yet more frantic and potentially dangerous swerves take place, but this time as lane changes, rather than “exit or stay”.  Indeed, at roundabouts with more than four entry/exit roads — and quite rightly there are plenty like this — or at roundabouts where the entries and exits do not form a geometrically symmetrical crossroads, such last-minute lane allocations can be a real challenge.

Our third concern is that we know of no states that are advising people to use turn signals before entering roundabouts, during their journey through a roundabout (both ‘as applicable’) and always when leaving the roundabout.  This is part of a systemic failure throughout the USA to educate drivers accurately how to drive around roundabouts correctly, and this failure has left a significant proportion of American drivers disliking or afraid of roundabouts — an immensely undesirable scenario.

ADoNA Training

All ADoNA training courses include full best-practice, theoretical training on how to correctly use roundabouts for maximum safety, and as long as there are any roundabouts near the training location you select, there will be full practical training as well.   Courses

Improving the Overall Situation

Around 2006-07, my own concern about what can only be classed as flaws in the correct design and use of roundabouts in America triggered me to start communicating with officialdom at national, state and local levels about the situation, but not for the first time, we were met with what can only be described as a stone wall — a total unwillingness to even acknowledge, let alone reply to, our communications on this important matter.

In exasperation, we have to ask what is this failure to employ the best-practices developed by other countries that have been using modern roundabouts for more than 60 years?   Do the administrators concerned bizarrely believe that proven and refined safety techniques are of no importance here in America so they’re just going to do it their own way?  I’m sorry, but either way this is grossly unacceptable and certainly gives the impression of arrogance — a case of “re-inventing the wheel but very badly.”

Recommendations
  1. Use ‘map’/’layout’ signs on every approach to all except the most-localized of roundabouts, so that visiting or inexperienced drivers are not left floundering as to which lane to use on the approach to the roundabout or not knowing which exit they will need to take from the roundabout until they actually reach it.
  2. Develop a single (i.e. national!) policy for which lanes drivers should use at any roundabout in the USA — based on the geometry of any particular roundabout — “except where signs show otherwise.”  Such an over-arching rule would allow all American drivers the chance to understand the benefits and use of roundabouts, and should be in every state’s drivers’ manual, with exactly the same wording so that there can be no drift away from its exact meaning.
  3. Teach drivers when and where to signal, on the approach, the transit through and the exit from any and every roundabout.  It is a remarkably easy rule to learn.  Failure to teach drivers this is to treat them like idiots, and if you treat drivers like idiots, they will all drive like idiots!
  4. Teach drivers that when approaching the yield line at the entrance to any roundabout, that they should be: “Prepared and able to stop but ready to keep going, if it is legal and safe to do so.”

It is a sad but inescapable and relevant fact that the USA is effectively the worst-performing developed nation in the world when it comes to road safety and reducing an excessively high number of road deaths each year.  With a death-rate more than four-times worse than the leading nations of Sweden and the UK, America has a very long way to go to improve its highway safety to even just an acceptable level.

Addendum : A article titled ‘The Simple Solution to One of America’s Most Dangerous Travel Problems’ was published by ATTN on June 24, 2017, and relates to Massachusetts.  It contains all of the above problems and also implies that roundabouts, ‘rotaries’ and ‘traffic circles’ are the same thing when they are certainly not.

Eddie Wren, CEO/Chief Instructor — Advanced Drivers of North America

Also see our page: More on Roundabouts

May 2017