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How Ethical Is Your Driving?

Biking ElsewhereBy Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

Americans 16 and older spend almost an hour a day on average behind the steering wheel, according to AAA — more time than they spend socializing with other people [PDF]. That works out to 290 hours a year, or a little more than seven 40-hour work weeks.

Perhaps because driving is so routine here, we tend not to give it much thought. For most Americans, driving is an unremarkable activity. It’s easy to turn the ignition and let our mental autopilot take over.

But we’re still making weighty decisions behind the wheel — we’re just not very aware of them. Our driving behavior can be a matter of life or death for ourselves, our loved ones, and total strangers. Around 40,000 Americans were killed on the roads last year, and millions more were injured.

Serious crashes aren’t so frequent that people have to confront death and injury on a daily basis. And that can lull us into overlooking the potential for severe consequences when making decisions that feel mundane. Decisions like whether to hit the gas or the brake when approaching a yellow light. Or whether to reach for your cell phone on the passenger seat while you’re cruising down a familiar street. Or whether to do a shoulder check for pedestrians and cyclists before making a turn.

Nothing alerts you to the extent of driver inattention, carelessness, and aggression quite like walking with little kids. I have learned, for example, that drivers aren’t necessarily more cautious around people who are visibly pregnant or have a baby in a stroller. But some do seem to at least slow down when they see you crossing the street with an unrestrained toddler.

I think I’ve also become a more considerate driver. It’s not enough to merely take care not to hit pedestrians (which is still a higher bar than a lot of drivers meet). I try to drive in a way that puts people outside the car at ease and won’t register as a potential risk to them.

Many people set out on a driving trip with one goal: to make it as short as possible. But the idea that we can control our travel time through our driving is mostly an illusion. Speeding, even on very long journeys, isn’t the time saver we might assume.

What we can control, to a much greater degree, is the potential for harm caused by our driving.

In his book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What it Says About Us), Tom Vanderbilt writes that the act of driving distorts human behavior in a few important ways. One is that it insulates us from feedback. If you do something anti-social while driving, there is no mechanism to receive the kind of negative reinforcement you would in a face-to-face setting. You might get honked or cursed at, but soon enough you’ll be on your way.

That’s part of why driving is so morally weighty. It has the power to cause great harm, while also shielding people in a cloak of anonymity. This is a great temptation for some people — maybe most — whose urge is to see how much they can get away with. Resisting this urge means thinking outside yourself and applying some ethical calculus to the situation.

Now, speed-related collisions are responsible for about as many deaths each year — 10,000 — as drunk driving. We need to change how people view what’s right and wrong when they’re behind the wheel. What would it take for people to start thinking of common behaviors that pose grave risks — like texting and driving, or speeding, or failing to pay attention to people walking and biking — in the same moral terms that they now view drunk driving?
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Drivers Declare War on Walkers

Biking ElsewhereBy LEWIS MCCRARY, The Americain Conservative

Over the last decade, it’s become safer to drive and more dangerous to walk. That’s the conclusion of a new report on pedestrian safety released earlier this week, which documents that from 2007 to 2016, “The number of pedestrian fatalities increased 27 percent … while at the same time, all other traffic deaths decreased by 14 percent.”

Alarmingly, this is not just a medium-term trend, reports the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). In the U.S., “pedestrians now account for a larger proportion of traffic fatalities than they have in the past 33 years.”
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America’s Pedestrian Safety Crisis Isn’t Getting Any Better

Biking ElsewhereBy Angie Schmitt, Streets Blog

America isn’t making progress on pedestrian safety, with people on foot accounting for a steadily rising share of overall traffic fatalities.

In 2017, for the second year running, nearly 6,000 people were struck and killed while walking in the U.S., according to a new report from the Governors Highway Safety Association [PDF]. The pedestrian fatality rate remains about 25 percent higher than where it stood just a few years ago.

Other than the increase in driving mileage, there are few solid explanations of the factors at work. GHSA suggests distraction by mobile devices plays a role, as may impairment by marijuana, with pedestrian deaths rising more in states that have legalized weed. Neither explanation has been studied with scientific rigor, however.

One thing that’s certain is that city governments are in position to act on the problem, because pedestrian deaths are concentrated in urban areas. In 2016 alone, pedestrian fatalities in the 10 biggest U.S. cities rose 28 percent. In Los Angeles, the increase was 45 percent.

To reduce pedestrian fatalities, GHSA says states and local governments should focus on the following three areas.

[Just the headlines]

* More separation of pedestrians from motor vehicles
* Better visibility [s/b better nighttime iluumination]
* Reduce lethal motor vehicle speeds using engineering and enforcement
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Maryland standard practice is NOT recommended by Manual of Traffic Control Devices

Biking ElsewhereFederal Manual of Uniform Traffic control Devices:

Q: Should “share the road” signing be used to inform drivers of the likely presence of bicyclists and to inform them to pass bicyclists safely?

A: The SHARE THE ROAD (W16-1P) plaque was introduced into the MUTCD in the context of slow-moving farm equipment with no associated mention of bicyclists. Since that time it has become prevalent in conjunction with the Bicycle (W11-1) warning sign with the intent of warning drivers of the presence of bicyclists and warning drivers to pass safely. Research has shown that the “share the road” message when applied to bicyclists does not adequately communicate the responsibilities of either user group on the roadway. Road users are unclear whether “share the road” means that drivers should give space when passing or that bicyclists should pull to the side to allow drivers to pass. Where bicyclists are expected or preferred to use the full lane, that message is more clearly communicated with the Bicycles May Use Full Lane (R4-11) sign, supplemented by shared-lane markings as appropriate. When using the Bicycle (W11-1) warning sign, many jurisdictions have phased out the use of “share the road” in favor of an IN LANE or ON ROADWAY word message plaque, more clearly indicating the condition ahead instead of giving an unclear instruction. It is still compliant with the MUTCD if a jurisdiction chooses to post a SHARE THE ROAD (W16-1P) plaque under a Bicycle (W11-1) warning sign, but it would not be the best practice.

Maryland Manual of Uniform Traffic control Devices:

Section 2C.60 SHARE THE ROAD Plaque (W16-1P)
02 A W16-1P plaque shall not be used alone. If a W16-1P plaque is used, it shall be mounted below
either a Vehicular Traffic Warning sign (see Section 2C.49) [which includes W11-1 bicycle warning sign] or a Non-Vehicular Warning sign (see Section
2C.50). The background color of the W16-1P plaque shall match the background color of the warning sign
with which it is displayed.

Do I need to say we have a law requiring "best practices" which Maryland does not?
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Biking Elsewhere[B' Spokes: Just the headlines]

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Maine’s Law Enforcement Collaborative

Biking ElsewhereBy Lauri Boxer-Macomber, Bike Law

A collaborative group in Maine is tackling punishment passes, three-foot violations and other unsafe driving practices from within Maine's Law Enforcement departments.

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A New Traffic Safety Paradigm

Biking ElsewhereBy Todd Litman, Planetizen

Despite numerous traffic safety programs, traffic death rates have not declined in a decade and recently started to increase. We can do better! A new paradigm identifies additional safety strategies that reduce both crash rates and risk exposure.

During this holiday season thousands of North Americans will be unnecessarily killed or severely injured in crashes. We could do much better!

The United States has the highest traffic fatality rate among peer countries, nearly three times the European average and easily twice the averages of Australia and Canada.
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What and who are really behind all these pedestrian safety campaigns?

Biking ElsewhereBy Lloyd Alter, Treehugger

As it is now, the campaign language and programs promoted by the traffic safety organisations unabashedly victimise the individual (primarily pedestrians and cyclists) rather than speak out about the dangers of motorised vehicles. They also tend to ignore the one most obvious solution to lower road fatalities – a drastic reduction in the number of motorised vehicles on the road.
Their baseline is clear. Cars are here to stay - everyone else either get out of the way or bubble wrap yourself. What this communication subculture doesn’t talk about is rather telling. Basically anything that would brand cars as the problem - or reducing the number of cars.
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Put ‘people, not cars’ first in transport systems, says UN environment chief

Biking ElsewhereLack of investment in safe walking and cycling infrastructure not only contributes to the deaths of millions of people in traffic accidents on unsafe roads and poorly designed roadways, but also overlooks a great opportunity to boost the fight against climate change, a new UN environment report said today.
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Globe editorial: All those pedestrian deaths? It’s the cars, stupid

Biking ElsewhereVia The Globe and Mail

Living in cities makes wannabe legislators of us all. Every day, urbanites have occasion to shake a scornful fist and say, There oughtta be a law. There can't be a modern city behavior more liable to elicit this high-handed oath than the guy who walks down the street, or worse, crosses the street, with his head buried in his phone.

Some people are legislators in real life, not just in their passive-aggressive daydreams, so when they feel like there oughtta be a law, they put forward a private member's bill. That's what Ontario Liberal MPP Yvan Baker has done with the Phones Down, Heads Up Act. It would slap fines on people caught staring at their devices while crossing the street.
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Maryland should adopt the Idaho stop law.

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