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Monday, January 5, 2009

Bike Fort Collins Board Member Opposes Use of Cell Phones while Driving

Soapbox published in The Coloradoan, January 1, 2008.
By Jeff Emmel

The tragic death of fellow cyclist Erica Forney has started a grass-roots effort for a long overdue solution for inattentive driving by in-vehicle use of cell phones and communication devices.

Erica's death was not a crime against a cyclist as much as it was a crime against a little girl coming home from school, doing what little girls do. We ask you to become part of the solution as this campaign rapidly grows across our entire community.

Inattentive driving, primarily by the use of cell phones for voice and messaging, has been the leading cause of crashes on our state roads and highways for the past 10 years and is increasing in pandemic proportions. The accident danger is so great that the U.S. Department of Defense bans any use of cell phones while driving on all military bases.

Cell phone use while driving is affecting us daily and in record numbers, but it is most cruel by taking our family and friends one or two at a time. And the harshest reality, the driver usually kills others as they kill themselves. An inattentive driver struck and killed a little girl coming home from school Nov. 25 in Fort Collins. Last week, it was an entire family in Nebraska driving home to visit relatives for the holidays. A 97-year-old grandpa on his way to his birthday celebration in Boulder.

Using a cell phone while driving is a choice and is avoidable. Avoidance will be difficult because cell phone use, by design, is addictive, demands complete attention and has been drilled into our society with precision marketing. We are now faced with the perfect storm of the increasing use of attention-demanding technology, increased congestion on our roads and the primary use of the moving vehicle as an office or phone booth.

The solution starts as individuals. Give yourself a gift of not using your cell phone in your own car. Make your calls and messages before or after you are in your car. Put a short note in your outgoing greeting like, "I can't take your call right now. I am either out of the office or in my car ..." Do it for your own safety. Do it for the dad working on the road crew just ahead. Do it for the family coming the other way going to visit their friends. Do it for the little girl coming home from school.

Then give this gift to your spouse, your closest friend or your teenage driver with the words, "Because I would rather talk to you in person when you arrive home."

Then help answer the other part of the equation:

> Why do you feel you need to use your cell phone in your car?

> What would it take to keep you from using your cell phone in your car?

We are the change. Starting Jan. 20, if we are ever to recover from this economy, job losses or address the No. 1 killer on the roads in our own community, we need to work together for a sensible solution.

Decide for yourself. Visit for a list of references, feedback and how you and your group can become part of the solution.

Read the Bike Fort Collins call to action to help educate our community.

Jeff Emmel lives in Fort Collins. He is the director of a grass-roots effort to find a solution to cell phone use in automobiles and traffic safety.


Garry said...

Is it just me, or does this title say that a Bike Fort Collins Board member opposes a ban on cell phone use while driving?

Was this meant to say that a Bike Fort Collins Board member desires a ban on cell phone use while driving?

A driver admitted to me the other day that they peeled and ate two clemintines while driving that day. I think the point is that we have become way too casual about our driving. We do too many other activities, think about a myriad of projects, daydreams, etc instead of focusing on the real task at hand. Two things need to happen... we need to get back to actually driving (or better yet, park the car and pump up those bike tires). The other need is to start removing 'high risk drivers' from our streets and highways.

oriello said...

I've corrected that double negative, Garry. Thanks for the heads up!