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Have you had any close calls while driving distracted? Witnessed any?

I had one. I wasn’t using my phone, but just finding it, and moving it so I looked away. I was on a tertiary local highway, doing about 40. When my eyes returned to the road, the car I was following had stopped to take a left. I was able to brake, safely, though very hard and come to a stop with plenty of room, but it was not even a full second’s worth of room - one second more and I would be that guys passenger. A good reminder.

Is it true that they hotly debated whether it was unsafe to include a radio in the automobile, because all the listeners would be distracted? I could swear this was a puzzler at one point. Can anyone clarify the history of adding radios to automobiles?

My wife and I were on a two-lane road through a forested area, and she was pointing out something back in the trees that she thought was interesting. When I looked back at the road, there was a car stopped in our lane making a left turn. Seeing that I didn’t have enough distance to stop, I took to the shoulder and prayed. I’m not sure who was more frightened as I pulled back onto the pavement, me or the guy in the other car.

Am I blaming my wife for what happened? No. It was my mistake allowing her to distract me. I do get after her from time to time for pointing at things while I’m driving, but it was my duty to tune her out and concentrate on what I was doing.

I did. While driving I bypassed a billboard with the Powerball jackpot on it and didn’t see the amount as it was in my rear view. I turned around to see it, while still driving, and the traffic had stopped. I turned back to the front, noticing the traffic stop, and hit my brakes to avoid rear ending a car. That was helping much so I turned my car to the right hand shoulder of the road and stopped. Thank God for that right shoulder.

I’ve learned to use 2-way radio safely while driving (or flying), by always keeping my priorities in the correct order.

However, in January 2008 I came upon an 18-wheeler fully engulfed in flames 20 feet high. It had been hit by a car that had crossed the center line. The car had been hopelessly entangled underneath the truck. Later that day, I heard through the grapevine that the 18 year old girl who was driving the car (and who was burned to death in the ensuing fire) had been text-messaging a friend as the accident occurred.

I realize that anecdotal evidence such as this proves nothing in and of itself, and should not be construed to prove any need for over-reaching legislation banning mobile use of electronic communication devices. Nevertheless, this incident does serve to highlight just how unforgiving and horrible the consequences of failure to prioritize one’s driving tasks can be.

Drive to arrive alive. Drive like your life depends on it. It does.

Yes, while in heavy traffic, driveing in right lane, another driver passed me in the left lane, came over in the right lane before cleaning the front of my car, ran me off the road on to the emergency lane all the while on the cell phone, didn’t have a clue as to what she had done. Two blocks later while I was behind her, driver made a sudden stop in front of me, then turned right into a fastfood restaurant. She had no idea she was almost involved in two accidents in less than 1/4 mile. By the way, I was listening to cartalk while this was going on. Saturday morning April 3. I don’t use a cell phone while driveing. I’m 68 years old, multi-tasking has never been one of my strong suits, and from what I have witnessed over the past couple of years of other people trying this don’t have that ability either. Keep your hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, watch out for other drivers, and listen to cartalk.

Yeah, lots of them, been run off the road many a time. Too many to tell here.

The best one I know of was a friend of mine was driving a friendly (really friendly) co-worker home late one night down a country road. When she started giving him a ‘hummer’ (and not the 4wd kind) and he ran off the road into a hedge row, a tree limb busted through the windshield and pinned them both against the seat until after a couple of hours someone came along and pulled the car out of the trees and freed them.
Now thats distracted driving!

Yes! All three times I have been a pedestrian crossing the street (two of those I was in a protected crosswalk, the third I was crossing corner to corner in a residential area) and nearly run over by the driver looking down at their cell phones. Two of the drivers slammed on the brakes in time and the third missed my body by inches, but knocked a grocery bag out of my hand.

Well, maybe that last time was because I was using Car Talk’s reusable shopping bags.

All joking aside, they have been very frightening experiences and I worry about walking when my agility is lacking due to advanced pregnancy or pushing a baby stroller.

Just today we were driving home from work and saw a cop stopped in the middle of the two-lane highway, completely blocking all traffic in his direction. As we went past him in the opposite lane, we could tell that he was talking on his cell phone.

At least he wasn’t talking while driving!

I had two just this morning. Both men, both on I270 In Columbus Ohio. For some reason they both were using their right ear and bending over to the right. The first on was holding the phone in his left and on his right ear!

The first on got the closest. We had maybe a inch between us when he finally reacted to my horn. The second was in a pickup and I doubt if he even saw me. He did not get quite as close as the first.

… the designers continue to make everything menu driven and/or with sequential pushbuttons where I can only tell what configuration my vents are in or what channel my radios is on by taking my eyes off the road to go to a menu and look at a light changing diode display, a distracted-driving incident may be inevitable.

Living 13 years in Metro Detroit,
the “designers” were, in my experience, marketeers who promoted driving as a video game,
that should draw your attention (like a toy) to the "interior"
and give the driver the “feel of the open road”
(away from the other cars, etc. actually present).
In my experience, marketting overrode engineering unless trumped by lawsuit.
Actual engineers generally favored a dash with many (analog or digital) guages,
continously readable at a glance, and controls (dials, switches, buttons, mice)
with tactile feedback and no timeouts.

The FAA (United States Federal Aviation Administration)
calls the topic “Cockpit Resource Management”.

Through approval (14 CFR 23 aircraft type certification and technical standard orders),
the FAA enforces a few rules and recommends guidelines. In general

[list]No controls change operating state without confirmation. (i.e. nothing times out)[/list]
Whether you take 1sec or 1hr
to change a radio frequency or navigation setting,
the old one will continue in effect until you approve the change.
This is most commonly implemented by having an “active” setting,
currently in use and unchangeable, and a “standby” setting,
which you can edit but is not in use.
The new setting takes effect when you “activate” (overwrite the old setting)
or “switch” (standby -> active, active -> standby).
Another common implementation is with a “bug” (i.e. mouse)
that can be “canceled” to adjust,
locked (disabling change) to “hold” (use),
or commanded (slow steady change) to “trim” (fine-tune).

[list]Common warnings have exclusively reserved sounds.[/list]
In the 1970s and 1980s, NASA (Ames Research Center) studied the design of aircraft flight/configuration/navigation … controls and warnings.
A low pitched steady tone (horn) is reserved for stall warning.
A high pitched steady tone (whistle) is reserved for landing gear/configuration unsafe.
An intermittent high pitched tone (beeping) is reserved for navigation/autopilot limit.
Where feasible for numeric input (keypad, dial, mouse, …), a rising
set of beeps (like touch-tone) is recommended.

Tom, Ray, I hope if you plan to use this thread in your show you add the .point. about poor designs on commonly used controls as a contributor to distracted driving. Nobody anywhere talks about this, but I think it’s a real problem hidden in the “data noise”.

I’ve seen the advertising and lobby efforts push to legislate against
aftermarket upgrades of any form.

Radiotelephony appeared in commercial and police automobiles for decades,
but with rising profit margins in the last decade
this took the form of attempts to outlaw cell phones
NOT SUPPLIED BY CAR MANUFACTURER (i.e. OnStar, Sync, …)

Computers and mobile networking have been in commercial and police automobiles for decades.
As data service profit margins improve,
it looks like texting NOT SUPPLIED BY CAR MANUFACTURER is becoming the target.

I was in heavy traffic on Canal Road during morning rush hour, headed to work in Washington, D.C. Stop and go a few feet, repeat again and again. I glanced in my rear view mirror and noticed the car behind was moving toward my rear bumper – WITH NO APPARENT DRIVER! Suddenly a head popped up and the car braked rapidly. I moved forward again, checking the mirror, and her head again disappeared, returning only to brake just in time. Repeat serially … until one time her car was inches from my bumper and I honked to get her attention. The head bobbed up, both hands fluffing her hairdo. That’s when I realized to my utter amazement that she was using the car’s heater to DRY HER HAIR!

Every single day I walk 2 1/2 miles along a straight busy road down to the university, and every single day I have close calls with drivers on cell phones, seriously, they pull up on the side streets, straight thru the cross walks, looking for oncoming traffic before pulling out into traffic, or they turn into the side streets from the main road, and they never even notice the pedestrian who is halfway thru the pedestrian crossing with the nice pedestrian walk sign. Seriously, they might notice other cars that are about to crash into them, making a mess of their day, but they dont notice, people, kids on bikes, people walking dogs, people pushing baby strollers etc. Today I had to stop twice, once on the sidewalk, once crossing in the crosswalk across a side street, so that i wouldnt be hit by someone turning at me while talking on their phones

My wife once rear-ended a phone company truck at a stop light. Her distraction wasn’t a cell phone, but the prune she had dropped in her lap. She eats a lot of fiber because she worries about her bowels. Her car was totaled because the phone company truck had one of those seriously heavy steel bumpers. It didn’t have any damage and the driver was just fine. Needless to say she’s not allowed to eat fiberous foods in the car anymore.

I came across this in my friend’s photos on Facebook. I cannot get over how much this terrifies me.

On May 31, 2009, my partner and love, was killed while riding his bike on a rural road. It’s ironic this forum has appeared as Kevin was a avid car talk listener and did all the work on our cars. He could fix or build anything. Whenever listening he would guess at the problem and a lot of the time he was right!
I can only guess that the driver, a national guard recruiter, was distracted, his lawyers did a fine job of creating a different reality. He killed Kevin on a long, straight, flat road with ~3/4 of a mile sight line. It was 3 pm, sunny, not windy. What distracted the driver? Who knows? The lawyers and military circled the wagons very quickly and we still don’t know, he has never apologized for killing Kevin, the military has never apologized for their recruiter killing Kevin. He had a driving record as long as your arm and the military put him in a vehicle. Five days after lying to a jury (in my opinion), he went out and was arrested for DUI hit and run. He said he wasn’t distracted, you tell me? Please folks, it’s not worth it, when you’re driving, be driving, not doing anything else. Kevin was a good man, he didn’t deserve to die on the side of the road. He was just out riding his bike on a beautiful Sunday afternoon, living his life. He shared the road when he drove. Please keep an eye out for cyclists and pedestrians, they have no physical protection, and no legal protection as we found out. When you drive distracted and hurt someone,or kill someone you destroy countless lives. Almost a year later and I still have no idea how to pick up the pieces. I miss him terribly. Please, please don’t drive distracted, no matter how good a driver you think you are.

I was driving in the right lane on three lane freeway. I came up on a car going 10 miles under the speed limit. I changed to the middle lane to pass. Then I could see signs that the right lane was ending and “merge left”. Fortunately traffic was light, so I moved to the left lane to give the other car room to merge.

As I passed, I saw a woman trying to balance her cell phone on her left shoulder, while simultaneously holding some other gadget (GPS?) AND the steering wheel in her right hand.

Maybe it is just me, but I have seen many cell phone distracted driver episodes. (I do not use my cell phone while driving)

  1. Everyone (north and southbound) was stopped at a light. I was the first car in line in the northbound lane. When the northbound traffic got a green light, including a green arrow for me to turn left, the person in the southbound lane drove through her red light almost causing a collision with me. I guess she saw motion and figured she could go. She was on her cell phone. One thing that bothers me about this incident is that, to this day, that woman probably doesn’t realize what she did. I was slow to use my horn and there was nothing else to alert her. She probably thinks she is a safe driver.

  2. A man made a left turn onto the street along which I was walking. He was driving in the wrong lane and continued to do so for a while. Fortunately, no other cars were traveling on the street. He eventually moved over. He was on a cell phone.

  3. A woman was moving with traffic (in the middle of a major street with fast-moving traffic) and then slowed down dramatically causing a car behind her to switch lanes quickly. She was fumbling with her cell phone.

  4. A man was completely unaware of the red light he was about to run until he saw a car pull in front of him. He slammed on the brakes, fishtailed, and barely missed the car that had the right of way. He then when through the light and continued. At no point did he put down is cell phone.

I know I’ve seen other incidents. These are the ones that immediately come to mind.

I had a close call a few months ago that I will never forget.

Here in CA motorcycles are allowed to “split the lane”, i.e., drive between traffic. I am a motorcycle driver and I do this on occasion. But, I am incredibly vigilant when doing so! A few months ago I was driving in rush hour traffic and splitting the far left and second from the left lanes, the usual place to do it. And, it went through my mind that people on cell phones probably are less likely to see me coming up their right side because the phone would most likely be up to the right side of their face (seeing how the majority of our population is right handed). Not 5 minutes later I was heading between two SUVs and I had plenty of room, until the guy on my left started to swerve towards the guy on my right, squeezing me in the middle. I looked in his side mirror and saw he was on the phone! He got close enough for me to touch his car then noticed me and swerved left, and I accelerated quickly through the two. I swerved in front of him and gave the universal signal for (no not FU, but) HANGUP THE PHONE!!!

That was one of those moments when you find out what it feels like to have your bowels tremble. :slight_smile:

Thanks for a great show! Love you guys!

A few years back I decided it would be fun to be a long haul trucker. I went to truck school and got a job with a major trucking company. My dog and I were driving East on the interstate through Wyoming, Montana or one of those vast and rather empty states. There was virtually no one out even though it was mid afternoon. There was construction ahead and we were well warned for miles ahead. I think there were three lanes going my direction and they were narrowing it down to just the right lane. At the point where there was about one and a half lanes left I heard this loud hollow thud three times in close succession. It was a sound that I recognized from driving school when someone hit one of the 55 gallon plastic olive oil barrels that we weren’t supposed to be hitting. The barrels that were now flying around the road were international orange. I quickly noticed that there was this little car (all cars are little in this situation) that had decided to try to pass me going rather fast. I don’t know what kind of car, but it was one of the ones with four wheels and a steering wheel on the left. There was a stunned looking elderly woman looking up from her knitting in the passenger seat. They wisely slowed and dropped behind me. While it was only a WTF moment for me, it could easily have become a life threatening moment for them. When the road widened they carefully passed while self-consciously avoiding looking in my direction.