Don't Text And Drive
In 2009 I wasn’t doing anything close to the type of bike riding I do now. Richmond, Virginia was thriving fixed-gear-art-school-kid culture and I saw how easily and quickly some of my friends were getting around the city. So, I started riding my roommate’s 1980’s touring bike around town. He was usually at work, or actually going to class, so of course he didn’t know that I had been borrowing his bike to get around for a month. Well, that was until I got hit by a car while riding it.
I know it’s not true, but looking back I can remember having about 30 seconds to react and avoid the accident and I…just…didn’t. The driver was looking for cars coming from the other direction as he was pulling out at a stop sign. He actually came to a complete stop before pulling out, following the law to the letter. He hit me anyways. Dead on. After he made the initial impact, he continued to accelerate, mostly because he was not expecting a 20 year old kid wearing way too tight jeans to be just lounging on his hood staring at him in the middle of this random intersection.
He stopped when he realized what was happening. He was courteous and kind and apologetic. He even had the decency to hit me right in front of an ambulance dispatch. Nice guy. After the EMT touched my neck and I said “ow", and after a weird trip in an ambulance where the EMT cut my too-tight jeans off of me, and after some x-rays, I was sent on my way. I was fine but mostly I was lucky.
The driver was sober, he was paying attention, he was following the law, and he still hit a cyclist. The statistics aren’t great for getting hit by a car as a pedestrian or a cyclist, and they get even worse when drivers are distracted by their phones. In 2018:
Approximately 660,000 drivers use their phones while driving every day. 77% of adults and 55% of teens believe they can easily text and drive.
80% of car crashes are attributed to a person being distracted or not paying attention
25% of all motor vehicle crash fatalities are from distracted driving. This accounts for almost four thousand deaths last year, yet this number is hard to come by. By all expert accounts, this number is vastly under reported.
It only takes 3 seconds of distracted driving for a crash to occur. That’s about as long as it takes to have a bite of a sandwich or a drink of coffee, much less using your phone.
Distracted driving follows the same psychological pattern and driving while intoxicated.
This year, on December 22nd, Garneau is launching Don’t Text and Drive Day. Because I can’t possibly put into words better than they can, here are Louis Garneau’s own words on the subject:
Last year, on December 22, my friend, cyclist and racer Jason Lowndes was killed by a driver while training close to his home in Australia . He was 23.
The driver who hit him was texting while driving at the moment of impact. A few weeks ago, in Florida , a distracted driver plowed into a 14-cyclist peloton. Of the 14 people in the group, two were killed. In December 2016, Ellen Watters , a 28-year-old member of the Canadian cycling national team, was also killed by a distracted driver while training close to her home in Nova Scotia . In April 2017, Michele Scarponi, star of the Astana professional cycling team, was killed by a truck driver who was watching a video on his smartphone, a few days only before the start of the Giro d’Italia, in which he was slated to participate.
Christmas will be upon us in a few days; lives have been taken, families destroyed and drivers saw their lives ruined. The cell phone is an extraordinary communication tool but, if used while driving a vehicle, it can become a lethal weapon.
At Garneau, we have decided to launch the International “Don’t Text and Drive” Day to make everyone on the planet aware of the danger of texting and driving. Cyclists have been killed, but texting while driving is indiscrimate; pedestrians and other motorists could also be the victims of fatal crashes.
This event is first and foremost a rallying at the human scale, no matter the way of life or means of transportation, in a great effort to bring awareness to this issue. Following this announcement, we will deploy a message on social media which, I hope, will touch millions of people around the world and which will be repeated every December 22, for the rest of our lives, in homage to my friend Jason.