Thursday, January 18, 2018

The danger of distraction

BikeWalkLee and News-Press are focusing on the dangers of distracted driving, as the Florida Legislature is in session and considering legislation to address this epidemic.  Below are the recent commentaries and articles on this topic.  Stay tuned for more...and add your voices to the conversation.

1/6/18 News-Press Commentary by BWL's Darla Letourneau: As fatalities surge, no-texting law is No. 1 priority  

BWL Column: Being distracted could result in serious injuries
The News-Press, 1/18/2018

by Ken Gooderham

What are you doing right now – besides reading this?

Are you walking down the sidewalk? Riding your bike around the neighborhood? Driving your vehicle on our area’s overwrought roadways (please say no!)?

None of the above? Good… not that this article should demand your undivided attention, but that doing any other thing – particularly reading – while propelling yourself forward is rarely a great idea.

Most of us would agree that reading the newspaper while driving – or biking or walking – is not smart. So why do so many of us think that texting while driving is OK?

It’s not. It’s dangerous, to you and everyone around you.
Don’t misunderstand, it’s also dangerous to text while biking or even while walking. It’s just particularly hazardous to be looking at a smartphone screen rather than where you are going when operating a moving two-ton (or more) vehicle.

Let’s face it: Multi-tasking is a myth. Most people cannot (and should not) do more than one thing at a time if they hope to do it well. That’s particularly true for driving, a skill (if you think back to your driver’s ed days) that takes multiple nearly instantaneous decisions to do even moderately well.

However, that’s also true to some degree for cycling and even walking. Riding a bike and using your phone means you’re not paying attention to where you are going nor to what’s going on around you – and you don’t have both hands on the handlebars either. Even walking while texting puts you at risk; looking at the phone instead of looking where you are going is how people walk into telephone poles, walk off piers, walk into other people, walk into traffic or whatever other YouTube-style moment you can think of. (It’s not always funny. Just a few weeks ago, an 11-year-old was hit and killed by a train in Haines City because her headphones blocked out the warning whistles and she was too engrossed in her phone to look up and see the approaching train.)

Doing anything while distracted is risky. Driving (or biking or walking) while distracted is dangerous.

Texting is singled out because it offers the hat trick of distraction, combining visual (looking where you are going), manual (not having your hands on the wheel) and cognitive (not thinking about what you are doing only) distractions.

Traffic experts say that sending or reading a text (which they say takes five seconds) while driving 55 mph means you will travel the length of a football field blind. That’s a lot of yards for something to go wrong… and there are plenty of statistics to show just how wrong it can and does go every year.

Many of you get that. Looking over the Facebook comments received by the News-Press after a BikeWalkLee op-ed was published in support of a proposed law to make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida, and the feeling was strong that such a law is needed – mixed with incredulity that it wasn’t already on the books. (There was also a significant tangent offered on the driving skill-sets of our snowbird drivers, another familiar theme.)

Does knowing that texting behind the wheel is bad stop them from doing it themselves? AAA says no, that 84% of drivers say texting while driving is dangerous but 36% of them do it anyway.

Distractions comes in more modes than just texting. Adjusting the radio (or whatever entertainment mode your vehicle has), disciplining your kids, eating or drinking, taking care of some personal hygiene issues – all this and more can take your attention away from driving your vehicle. If you’re on a bike or on foot, being distracted from your surroundings and your propulsion is also risky – even more so in the vicinity of a distracted driver, an all too common event.

Want to stay safe? Don’t drive (or bike or walk) while distracted. If someone around you is dangerously distracted, either ask them to pay attention to the task at hand or get far, far away from them.

Even though it should take only common sense to stop this instead of a law, laws have to step in when common sense is not so common. So support the effort to make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning someone can be stopped and ticketed if someone in law enforcement sees a driver texting in motion. Right now, it’s a secondary law, meaning a ticket can only be issued when an officer has another reason to pull someone over… say, because they just hit a cyclist or walker while texting.

A boost for Bonita and Estero

Thanks to a strong showing of community support and some local officials taking their case to Tallahassee, the Bonita-Estero Trail segment has been restored to the state’s Greenways and Trails map. That’s the first step to make the trail – which runs along U.S. 41 and Business 41 – a reality somewhere down the road.

The move not only puts this trail back on the map (and eligible for state funding), it helps boost some badly needed bike/ped infrastructure in the southern part of the county while connecting it to the Collier segment of the trail.

Thanks to Bonita Deputy Mayor Peter O’Flinn, Estero Councilmember Nick Batos and Lee MPO director Don Scott for making the case in Tallahassee, and to all the residents who wrote 880 letters in support of this effort.

Ready to ride or run?

Run? This Saturday, try a 5K run/walk as part of the weekend Tour de Cape at Cape Harbour ( There’s a full schedule on Jan. 27, with 5Ks at the Calusa Nature Center in Fort Myers, the Civil Air Patrol in Naples and Hancock Elementary School in Cape Coral – plus a half-marathon and 5K at the Hands Across the Harbor in Punta Gorda. Details at,, and, respectively.

Ride? Choices abound, starting with the venerable Tour de Cape on Sunday with rides of 15, 30, 60 and 100 miles ( Critical Mass rides upcoming include the Cape night ride on Jan. 26 and the Saturday Slow Roll in Fort Myers Jan. 27 ( Jan. 27 also brings Hands Across The Harbor in Punta Gorda, with rides of 13.1, 20 or 30 miles (

Both? Nothing nearby in the near term, check out or for events in the state.


Have a favorite route you like to bike, or a unique walk you’d like to share with others? Tell us about it at, and maybe we can feature it in an upcoming column.

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Ken Gooderham writes this on behalf of BikeWalkLee, a community coalition raising public awareness and advocating for complete streets in Lee County — streets that are designed, built, operated and maintained for safe and convenient travel for all users: pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists, and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Information, statistics and background online at 

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