Distracted driving remains top priority
As part of the National Distracted Driving Month awareness campaign, and in conjunction with the Vermont Highway Safety Alliance (VHSA), the Vermont State Police is making public the results of a survey performed last month. Vermonters were asked for their opinions on traffic safety in their communities, and were invited to go online and share their observations about topics like seatbelt use and mobile electronic devices (cell phones).
The survey garnered over 1,700 responses, and a multitude of helpful comments that give the Vermont State Police a clear picture of traffic safety concerns for folks in their communities, VSP reported in a press release April 24.
On cell phone use, most responders feel that the use of mobile electronic devices is still a problem, with more enforcement and stiffer penalties being the solution. On the proposed idea of lowering the speed limit during hazardous conditions (snowstorm), 67 percent of responders say it’s a good idea, while suggesting that those who speed will do so no matter the speed limit. Other comments highlighted distracted driving, tailgating, and drunk driving as common areas of concern among many participants.
Survey results will be used to help VSP and VHSA build a safer travel community through education, outreach, legislation, and enforcement.
In 2013, distracted driving took the lives of 3,154 people nationwide. Those lives were lost because someone chose to text while driving, or do their makeup behind the wheel, or focus on food instead of the road. Distracted driving takes lives every day because of a choice to do something other than drive. At any given moment in the United States, there are 660,000 people using cell phones or manipulating other electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010. That includes dialing phone numbers, using a GPS and, of course, texting while driving.
The average time your focus is off the road for a text is five seconds. In that time, at 55 mph, you travel the length of a football field. That’s a very long distance to not pay attention to the road.
On April 30, VSP and VHSA will also be sponsoring the #justdrive Tweet-up hosted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Starting at 8 a.m. EDT and running all day, NHTSA will be sharing facts on the dangers of distracted driving, as well as tips and resources on how to make the roads safer. VSP invites folks to join in and invite your followers to join in for an all-day social media blitz using the hash tag #justdrive.
Question #1:Have you seen a decrease in handheld cell phone use?
Comments of interest:
- I would rather have a drunk behind the wheel, then a person on the cell phone. At least the drunk is more aware of how they are driving over someone on the phone
- This is still a relatively new law. Consistently enforce it…continued consistent enforcement will cause people to think about their actions
- More drivers holding cell phones below dash, so their eyes are now completely off the road
- Law should only apply to those under 18 years old. Education is key, not regulation
- Complacency has set in and now people are using phones while driving more than ever
- Put your radar guns away and start ticketing distracted drivers
Specific Problem Areas:
- Kennedy drive in morning and Shelburne road in the evening
- Rt 107- between Bethel and 89 ramps
- Emergency Responders using cell phones
- Border Patrol Agents on cell phones
- Schools – Pick-up and Drop-off areas
- Airport pick up lanes
- More areas to pull off in order to use cell phones
- Focus on ticketing distracted drivers
- More signage/increased knowledge of new law
- Increase fine
- Make the cell phones not work when vehicle in motion
- Increase penalty if in a Work-zone or Emergency scene
The overall response was 55.07% of people report noticing a decrease; however most responses indicate the problem is still very prevalent. General consensus seemed to be for more enforcement and stiffer penalties.
Question #2: What percentage of the time do you wear your seatbelt? Comments of interest:
- I face planted a windshield 22 years ago due to not wearing a seat belt and the car was going less than 15 mph. Lesson learned
- A seatbelt saved my life in 1980
- My car does not go into gear until everyone is buckled up
- If I wear it they must as well and if they refuse they walk, non-negotiable
- Under age 18 you should have to wear a seatbelt. After that it should be your choice, not a way to make money
- I had an uncle die from wearing a seatbelt and a friend who died from not wearing one – so if it’s your time, it’s your time. It should be your choice if over age 18
- If you get a handle on other issues (license, registration, insurance, inspection, defective equipment) after you make a difference with those, then re-visit the seatbelt issue
- I choose not to wear a seatbelt as I don’t need big brother protecting me from myself
- How far do we go in mandating how we carry out our daily lives? It’s about being a free person and not wearing one because of the loss of the feeling of freedom.
Specific Problem Areas:
- Adults not using them when they make their children.
- “Quick” runs to the store.
- Elementary Ed programs, kids can get their parents to buckle up
- All cars beep until seat belt is buckled
- Lead by example
- Make it a primary Violation
- Enforcement Summary:
The overall response was 88.59% report always wearing their seatbelt, while 1.90% report never wearing one. Across the board, from the majority of responders who always wear one, to those that never do; feel it should be a person’s choice, not a law. Many wear seatbelts for safety, not because it’s the law.
Question #3: Do you make your passengers wear their seatbelt? Comments of interest:
- In fact, most of my friends get very bothered by this. They may thank me someday …
- Two options: Wear it or get out. On the federal level, we should mandate that all auto makers install seatbelts that are bright fluorescent orange, then a police officer would have long range visibility that a stupid redneck is not wearing a restraint
- To some degree we are ruining the enjoyment of life…We don’t allow most of those things because we are so focused on eliminating every potential danger. Yet, our country can’t effectively regulate people that drink and drive. They can’t prevent kids that they try to protect with so many laws, from doing drugs.
Specific Problem Areas: Ideas:
The overall response was 86.11%, while 3.65% indicated they don’t ask or check. 6.31% of responders indicated they only made children wear seatbelts. Many responses indicate a refusal to transport someone who will not buckle up.
Question #4: Do you feel that lowering the speed limit during hazardous road conditions will Improve highway safety?
Comments of Interest:
- How about putting drivers ed back into school?
- Younger drivers should be tested to drive in winter conditions
- Snow tires should become mandatory
- Common sense will improve highway safety
- Stay out of it… none of your business
- As long as it is dynamic and changes as the conditions do. People get compliance fatigue if the reduced speed does not match the conditions
- You can’t argue with stupid. People will rush no matter what’s posted
- Very subjective with difficult parameters
- Need a combination of better care of the roads and lower speed limits during storms
- Police ticket regardless of situation. Wife driving 35 in a 50 mph and ended up overturned in a creek with water filling up her car. She had to cut her seatbelt to get out through a broken window. Ticket was written without even speaking to her. Lack of compassion and troopers are being unfair to regular citizens
- Triple the fines for those that don’t adhere. Officers are doing the best they can with the laws that they are given. When they have to start jumpi ng guardrails for safety, then it’s time to change the way traffic is directed on hazardous roads
- Every snow storm is different. Setting a certain speed limit for certain conditions would be difficult – sometimes even 40 mph is too fast for the conditions
- Of course it will but if we ban cars altogether you improve safety even more. Please stop adding more regulations to our lives
- It only helps the conscientious drivers
- I was very surprised that WCAX reported the average speed was 68 mph during snow storm where 23 accidents happened
Specific Problem Areas
- Tractor trailer units driving faster than safe, plus passing other motorists and leaving them in white out conditions or splashing slush and snow onto other’s windshields.
- Interstate driving
- People in four-wheel drive or SUV’s driving as if they are invincible.
- Stop giving tickets to those who crash and end up off road
- Big trucks need to slow down to a safer speed, especially during storms
- More police presence on the roads
- Become stricter when it comes to tailgating and other reckless driving behavior.
- Electronic speed signs
- Better maintained roads
- Double the fines in inclement weather, like in construction zones
- Require winter tires
- Institute bare roads policy
- Mandatory winter driving course as part of driver’s education
- Increase VTrans budget.
- Tire check points, similar to TT weigh stations
The overall response was 67.80% answered yes and 32.20% answered no. In general, responses indicate reducing speed limits during inclement conditions should be common sense; however, those responses recognize some people will still speed, regardless of a speed limit reduction. Major complaints were 4- wheel drive vehicles and IT units. Overall suggestions of mandatory winter tires and tire check points, along with electronically programmed speed limit signs seemed to resonate with respondents.
Question 115: What do you feel are the biggest highway safety issues? Comments of i interest:
- Distracted driving – not just from handheld devices – lack of signal use and improper stops
- Drunk driving – More sobriety checks for motorists. People under the influence are scary
- People who drive too slow during snow storms
- Lowering speed limits during hazardous conditions and actually enforcing these limits
- Lack of adequate road maintenance and clean up -more sand after initial salting of roads.
- TI units
- Reduced speed in work zones, when no workers are present is creating compliance fatigue
- Left lane drivers who won’t move over – leads to road rage and unsafe weaving in and out of traffic
- Distractions while driving Including make-up, shaving, pets on laps, reading while driving,etc.
- Unmarked police car – “I will not stop for an unmarked car with blue lights flashing. I’ll move to the side, but I refuse to stop. Especially those with green plates. This should be outlawed.”
- Weaving in and out of traffic
- Unsafe merging on and off interstate
- People not dimming headlights
- Red light/stop sign violations
- Out of state drivers not accustomed to driving in VT weather
- Road rage/aggressive driving
- Lack of police presence and enforcement
- Unsafe passing practices
- “Safe roads at safe speeds” does not work when police ticket people for sliding off the roads – the burden should be on the state for not maintaining the roads properly.
- Not enough Law Enforcement to properly enforce motor vehicle laws
- Police need to follow laws, just as citizens do, especially when there is no emergency
- Be as visible as you can/More police presence
- Officer Politeness
- More speed traps/ more unmarked cruisers
- Use of head lights – Headlights should be a requirement… Headlights should also be required during rain, fog and snow storms
Specific problem areas:
- 1-89 – north of exit 18 – report lack of police presence
- Placing mangled and wrecked vehicles in the medians along the highway to serve as reminders
- More specifically aimed commercials; graphic texting and driving (distracted driving in general)
- Encourage local & Sheriff departments to patrol on interstate
11Dummies” in cruisers
- One officer doing radar outside of vehicle and a cruiser down the road to ticket speeding vehicles
- Drone radar
- Colors that stand out for police cruiser (reflective tape like inside of door)
- Police cruiser physically forcing people to slow down during snow storms by blocking passing lane
- Talking to local high schools about texting and driving. (graphic video/wrecked car)
- Don’t be afraid to give warnings, especially to first time offenders
- Have plow drivers always salt and sand after plowing an area
- Wind breaks to stop icing in high cross wind areas
This question created the most comments -1525. The most commonly listed “problem areas” were:
- Distracted driving-cell phones, eating, animals on laps, reading, etc
- Poor winter road conditions – AOT
- Driving under the influence
- Trooper’s safely driving
- Aggressive drivers – tailgating, weaving, break checking
- Road conditions – pot holes, inadequate pavement, use of brine, maintenance and upkeep during winter storms
Question #6: Do you have any comments for our Traffic Safety Team? Comments:
- Keep safe
- Keep working hard and thank you
- VSP does a great job that I’m sure is often thankless, difficult and dangerous – thank you I
- Make sure Troopers are driving safely and following rules of the road
- Give drivers more advance notice of accidents ahead – especially on the Interstate for TI units hauling heavy loads
- Motorcycle awareness
- More speed enforcement
- The AOT workers are going a great job
- Be visible in the early morning hours and during the commute hours in the afternoon
- Thank you for the opportunity to voice my opinion, and mostly – thank you for all the time and effort you devote to making our highways safer for all drivers
- Increasing cell phone coverage throughout the state so drivers can make reports of dangerous drivers
- Mandatory driving for seniors age 75 and over
- Hold people accountable for lack of snow removal on their vehicles, thus inhibiting their vision
- Tailgating and lack of turn signals are problematic
- Remember one very important thing; the traffic stop you make may have saved a life! Keep up the good work!
- More visibility
- Reduce number of rear facing lights on police vehicles – they are overkill which is nearly blinding to oncoming traffic at night; which could be hazardous to officers on the side of the road
- I’m an EMT – you guys are the heroes!