You may have heard this morning about the genius driver in Tempe who tried to zip through a train crossing, with the traffic barriers down, before getting hit by the oncoming train. Not surprising to most of us, the driver was injured and taken to hospital. Her injuries are not life-threatening probably because she drove a van and not a Mini.
The train's driver, thankfully, was not injured and is in no way at fault.
This kind of accident is so unnecessary, yet we hear stories like this at least a few times a year. Sometimes people are killed. Maybe we can expand Arizona's Stupid Motorist law to include drivers who survive beat-the-train crashes or whatever you want to call them.
Anyway after reading the full story I came upon another one about a report from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, which gives Arizona a failing grade for its traffic safety laws. It seems that there is more to traffic safety than strict drunk-driving laws, for which the report does give the state high marks
Arizona's traffic safety laws are "dangerously behind" those of the rest of the nation, where there are laws telling drivers to refrain from doing things like texting while driving and prohibiting at least minors from yapping on their cellphones from behind the wheel.
In addition to banning cellphone use by young drivers and an outright ban on texting while driving, the report urges Arizona to take additional steps that can improve traffic safety:
- Mandatory blood alcohol tests for drivers who survive texting-while-driving crashes
- Primary enforcement of seatbelt laws, which means police can stop cars when they spot an unbelted driver or passenger
- Requiring all motorcycle riders to wear helmets
- A range of new restrictions for graduated driver license (GDL) holders, including more hours for supervised driving, and restrictions on cell phone use, nighttime driving, and passengers
Alberto Gutier, the director of the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, told AZ Capitol Times that “Arizona is Arizona. We don’t have to kowtow to anybody, including the highway safety advocates.”
Right. Efforts to prohibit cell phone talking while driving, much less texting while driving or a helmet law, have been defeated in the Legislature as attacks on freedom. I don't know about the freedom of drivers who are injured by idiots who can't or won't ignore the phone for a few minutes. At least helmet-free motorcyclists who suffer severe injury or are killed in accidents only hurt themselves and their families, although there's an argument that this increases emergency medical costs for everyone.
Gutier also says a lot of the laws would be difficult to enforce. But reports show that states with primary seatbelt laws have lower auto fatalities and that these laws do encourage people to buckle up.
The number of fatal motorcycle accidents has doubled since the 1990s, when many states repealed or weakened helmet laws (Arizona requires helmets for riders under 18). I have to wonder if some of this has to do with car drivers busily texting and even less likely to notice a bike on the road.
There will always be idiots who try to outgun trains but I doubt that a new law will stop this. People still get fined under the Stupid Driver law. Where's the common sense? Why can't people not text while driving, regardless of what the law "allows"? I've had a few close calls from texters--a really bad one almost rear-ended me on 101. I've witnessed countless near-misses by people talking on their phones who were too distracted to understand merging, stop signs, crosswalks, etc.
What I can't understand is why people equate common-sense safety with an attack on their personal freedoms. Laws help, but they also seem to make some people dig in even deeper.