3 Strikes and You’re Out [of a Driver’s License]! Washington DC Advancing Distracted Driving Legislation

The nation’s capital is barreling towards passing some of the strictest distracted driving laws in the country according to a new article at the Washington Post. The bill would lead to real time tracking of prior offenses by police. The full scope of this being a graduated violation system with escalating penalties for those caught committing repeated acts of distracted driving.

Currently, distracted driving laws in DC are fairly lax: a first offense of using your phone while driving is a $100 fine though the fine can be thrown out with proof of purchase of a hands-fee device. The new law would remove that option. It also sets escalating penalties for subsequent violations within 18 months of that first violation. A second offense would cost you $150, and a third, $200. The real penalty though comes with that third violation, as it would also include a 30 to 90 day suspension of your license. This represents the same sort of penalty you’d see with a reckless driving charge. It’s a very big deal in that regard.

While I don’t know that a graduated violation system will do the job, tougher penalties are needed to save lives. The main issue with this 18 month violation timeline is what is the likelihood violators would even be found repeatedly committing distracted driving in that time period? It seems like very tough penalties that would be unlikely to be enforceable with regards to repeat offenders. Unless of course DC is truly looking to distracted driving tickets as a revenue booster and having this be a top priority of police officers is the plan all along. Even if that is the goal, the DC Police Department would be years away from being able to track violators in a meaningful way as this graduated violation system requires. Even if the law is enacted in 2017, violation tracking wouldn’t be available until 2020 according to the same Washington Post article.

Distracted Driving continues to become a nationwide epidemic. As technology allows us to do more on our phones, we have to fight that urge to do more irresponsibly behind the wheel. The CDC estimates 1 in 5 crashes in 2013 were caused by distracted driving, causing some 3,000 deaths and over 400,000 injuries. DriverSafetyCenter.com believes greater public awareness as to the dangers of distracted driving in combination with technological advances from phone manufacturers which disable the bulk of a phone’s capabilities while driving [aside from hands free talking and GPS] would do far more to save lives than simple ticketing.

Back to School Safety Tips to Keep You and Everyone Else Safe on the Road

School is back in session and that means more cars and buses on the roads early in the morning, making your commute even longer and more stressful. And if your commute is based on local roads as opposed to highways you may find yourself contending with crossing guards and kids shuffling across the street. With that in mind here are some driving safety tips to keep everyone safe.

School Bus Stops

When it comes to school bus stops, all states require that you stop for a school bus when it’s loading or unloading to let children safely cross the street to get to and from the bus. Most states want you as far back as 20-30 feet away from the bus when the lights are flashing red on either side of the road. To find your state’s law regarding school bus stops click here.

School Zones

Always be mindful of those yellow school zone signs. Whether they light up or just indicate a specific time frame, go the speed limit indicated on the sign. You never know if there is an officer waiting for speeders or if a child may run into the middle of the road.

Backing Up

Just because you may have a back up camera on your car does not mean it will always pick up that someone is behind you. Always check around you and your blind spots when reversing your car near where children may be. Follow that advice at home as well, as you may not see your own kids in the driveway. It happens way more than you’d think.


Pedestrians often have a cavalier attitude when it comes crossing the street, often think they are invincible and expect you to stop. This is even truer of children. With children, consequences are learned and not assumed. They assume you will always stop for them. They assume your car will be able to stop in time if they dart in front of you. As a driver, you should know you can’t predict behavior but you can always be mindful of your own.

Teen Drivers

All year long there are new teen drivers on the road. They could very well be stuck in morning traffic right along with you. Be mindful of the experience level of others and be courteous. Remember new drivers are less used to stressful situations behind the wheel and may react differently. Teen drivers are more prone to take chances so remain cautious in school zones as well.

Plan ahead

Expect longer delays with school back in session so plan your route to avoid delays if possible and either leave a few minutes earlier than you normally would or if you have the luxury, leave after the kids are in school. A few minutes could make the difference between a short commute or sitting in traffic for an eternity! If you find yourself stuck on the road due to cars driving into schools and crossing guards stopping you regularly for pedestrians, do not get frustrated.  Most bosses understand traffic happens and as long as you’re smart enough to plan your route properly, it won’t be a regular occurrence.

Be safe!

No Apps Allowed! California Cracks Down Even More On Cell Phone Use While Driving

California’s laws regarding cell phone use when it comes to distracted driving continue to broaden. Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Monday September 26th AB-1785     [authored by Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D-Hayward)]which increases the reach of existing legislation [SB-1613] in regards to just what you can do with your phone on the road. Previously state law banned drivers from talking or texting directly on the phone while driving. You had to go hands-free.

Under the new law, any activity on your cell phone [not hands-free] that is deemed interfering with driving itself will now be finable. This prohibits drivers from checking maps, adjusting playlists, checking social media, taking photos or live streaming on their phones unless a hands-free device is used. GPS apps are only allowed to be used if users mount their phone to their windshield like they would with a portable GPS device. The law would allow only for single swipe or tap use by the user, again if the device is mounted. The phone cannot block the driver’s view of the road. This law does not apply to already built-in devices that car manufacturers put in their vehicles.

If the law is violated, there is a base fee of $20 for the first offense and can go up to $50 for every additional offense plus penalties which can triple overall fine amounts.

The law still prohibits drivers from wearing headphones or any device that covers ears while driving. California lawmakers believe this will lessen distracted driving risks related to evolving technologies available in smart phones.

You can read more about AB-1785 here

Put That Latte Down! A New Eating/Drinking and [Distracted] Driving Law Could Change Life in New Jersey

Soon, the drive-through at Starbucks could be aiding and abetting you when it comes to breaking a new proposed distracted driving law in New Jersey, one that makes eating or drinking while driving illegal. This may sound outlandish and but it could very well become the law of the land in the Garden State. The law itself uses very broad language to put a stop to “any activity unrelated to the actual operation of a motor vehicle in a manner that interferes with the safe operation of the vehicle on a public road or highway.”

It means picking up McDonald’s and picking through your fries a bit on the way home would be illegal. Drinking your soda would be illegal. Paying too much attention to the radio dial would be illegal. Conversations with a passenger could be considered illegal if it distracts you. The problem is the law is so general in its writing that everything would be illegal. Everything equals distracted driving.

While we can admire some of the good intentions of this law, the wanting to protect people, it’s still overreaching. Eating and drinking while driving has been part of the culture for decades. You will not simply regulate this behavior out of existence. Obviously there is a difference between sipping a soda while driving and having the burger in one hand, the fries in the other and using the soda between your knees to steer while your focus changes from entrée to entrée. There are already reckless driving laws on the books to regulate this type of behavior because said behavior will cause obvious instances of reckless driving regardless.

The fines associated with this distracted driving law raise a red flag as well. A first offense is $400, with subsequent offenses ranging from $600-$800.00 plus points on your license and even a 90 day suspension. While I do think if you’re a serial offender, you deserve whatever happens to you, this does sort of ring of lawmakers finding revenue in bad behavior. To put this in perspective, the maximum fine for first time reckless driving charge in New Jersey is $200.00 [N.J.S.A. 39:4-96]. You could swerve all over the road and as long as you weren’t holding a cup of Starbucks, your fine would be half [reckless driving can also carry jail time, so don’t test this theory out]. Add to the fact that bad behavior is poorly defined and this law gives carte blanche authority to write tickets all day. Driving with an open container would suddenly apply to Dr. Pepper.

Ultimately, I would not support this legislation as is and hope New Jersey lawmakers do not, at least not in its current form. A measure of common sense needs to be added and the benefit of the doubt should to be given to drivers in terms of reasonable expectations. The dangers that exist from distracted driving are very real but something that can be eliminated by making people smarter drivers. Driver Education

People Are Crashing Their Cars Because of Pikachu and Jigglypuff


Nintendo’s Pokémon Go is sweeping the nation, and the world at large. I’ve seen kids clumped in town squares having pizza parties as they use their smartphones to play the game, trying to find Pokémon characters out in the real world. There’s good intentions there, a game that makes kids go outside. It was nice, though the sheer number of people walking around glued to their phones as they played was sort of surreal even by the standards of the world we live in today. Apple has reported, according to an article over at TechCrunch, that Pokémon Go is its most downloaded app in its first week of release ever.

All that said, I’m hearing some pretty concerning things associated with the game as well. Some folks in Elk Grove, CA were lured into a serious situation when they tried to meet up with other fans and were instead robbed at gunpoint. Two young men in Encinitas fell off a cliff some 80 feet to the beach below trying to catch Pokémon on their phone. The one that really caught my attention happened in Baltimore; a young man and his friends sideswiped a police car while playing Pokémon Go.

Then I read about a Pokémon Go crash in Fall City, WA; then one in Auburn, NY; another across the border in Canada’s Quebec City. As the popularity of this app continues to rise to even greater heights, it may actually become something of a regular cause of accidents. All of this, of course, goes back a regular topic on this blog: distracted driving.

Distracted Driving takes many forms.  Sometimes it’s a bad mood. You could be paying more attention to one of your passengers than the road. It can be something as insignificant as eating or drinking, lighting up a cigarette or vaping. You might be trying to answer a text message [sending the average text will take your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds, which is just long enough for something to go wrong.]

Traffic safety experts actually consider there to be three types of distractions drivers can get caught up in: the manual, the visual, and the cognitive. A manual distraction is when you physically do something [grabbing your phone out of your purse] that takes away your attention. A visual distraction is when something else comes into view that takes your eyes off the road [a new text appears on your phone]. A cognitive distraction is anything that causes your mind to focus on something else rather than driving [thinking about a text you received]. Now with Pokémon Go, you have all three of those distractions combined just like active texting but in a new way that requires greater concentration and feeds into the competitive response of gaming. That’s what makes it more even more dangerous.

Now if you’re a person who thinks it’s important enough to catch Meowth or Psyduck that you would risk yourself, your passengers, people outside, or even your or someone else’s car, well maybe I can’t help you. However, if you’re a fairly rational person only occasionally just prone to poor judgment, please keep safety in mind. Yes, you “gotta catch em all!” but not behind the wheel. If you’re a pedestrian, look both ways when you cross the street, don’t stare at your phone, the person pulling up to the crosswalk in their car might be on the precipice of finding Charmander and not stop in time.

Don’t Pokémon Go and Drive!

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