The Department of Motor Vehicles reports that human deaths from distracted driving are on the rise nationally and, in fact, statistics show that the catastrophic consequences of distracted driving are growing higher each year. Consider the following statistics from the DMV.org web site from 2016:
- Nine people die every day in the United States from distracted driving.
- 11% of car accidents leading to fatalities are related to distracted driving.
- When texting, your eyes are typically off the road for five seconds. That’s the length of a football field when driving at 55 MPH!
- You are three times more likely to crash when performing a visual or manual activity—such as reaching for a phone or the radio.
Aside from the human toll, every year it seems that there is more road kill in Gardiner: squirrels, rabbits, skunks, cats, deer, dogs, and birds. As a road bicyclist, I’ve always been sensitive to the issue, but a recent, almost tragic, event brought into stark relief the way speeding and distracted driving contribute to road deaths of all kinds.
Here’s what happened: on Bruynswick Road in Gardiner, a neighbor was herding her small flock of Guinea fowl across a deserted road. Suddenly, a quarter mile away, an Audi sports car hurtled through the 44/55 intersection, past Lombardi’s Restaurant and down the road, exceeding the 45mph speed limit by, in my estimation, at least 20 mph.
My neighbor tried to wave off the car, which was surely going to decimate not only the hens, but my neighbor as well. As the car approached, I noticed that the driver was looking down, as one might when texting.
I joined in, screaming and waving for the car to stop. Less than three car lengths away, the driver looked up, slammed on the brakes and skidded to a stop inches from the birds and my neighbor, all of whom were busy leaping out of harm’s way.
When the driver rolled down her window, my neighbor said, “Didn’t you see me waving at you to stop?” To which the driver, who as a side note, had a toddler in the car with her, replied, “It’s not my problem your birds are in the road,” and drove away.
We are all, without question, stressed and overextended these days, and perhaps it could have been any of us just taking a few seconds to get out that really important text; or seeing who that call just came in from; or mopping up the coffee that just dripped on our clothes. But isn’t it actually our problem? Do we really want to reach the point where we have road kill apathy?
Why not take the pledge above, to, “Keep your eyes on the road. Keep your mind on driving. Keep your hands on the wheel.” Make Gardiner safer, for animals and humans alike.
A deer was veering swerving cars,
until she was hit square on by ours.
Her death made it oh so clear
that we should not run from our fears.
Sad at the loss of my best friend.
Angry for his life’s early end;
I saw a roadkill squirrel’s form
showing me nature’s apathy toward gore.
The World cares not for my soul,
Nature offers us no special role,
but to live and die like all the rest
no greater than the smallest pest.
—Sabio Lantz, July 2015