Tag Archives: distracted driving

Distracted Driving Event Set For Saturday

It’s a recent, and potentially fatal, phenomenon: a car crashes into a tree or telephone pole. It’s the middle of the day — often in fine weather — and there are no other vehicles around.

The cause is almost always distracted driving. And the driver can just as easily be an adult as a teenager.

Meanwhile, for decades, many other accidents — at all times of day — have been caused by impaired drivers. Those under the influence of alcohol or drugs can be any age too.

Staples High School’s Teen Awareness Group wants to do something about it.

This Saturday (October 13, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., Staples football field), the club hosts a Distracted Driving event. It’s free, and open to all high school students.

Plus their parents, and any other interested people.

Drivers can be distracted by texting, as well as by alcohol or drugs.

The State Police will be on hand with a simulator. Attendees can experience first-hand the power of an impact by a moving vehicle — this time, fortunately, in a safe, controlled environment.

Westport police officers will create an obstacle course and other simulations. Using special goggles, participants can experience the effects of substances on depth perception, coordination, decreased reaction time and impaired decision-making.

You can also take a field sobriety test.

TAG has organized this Distracted Driving Day with support from the Westport Youth Commission and Westport Police-Youth Club.

It’s an important event. Drive safely — there, back and always.

(NOTE: Attendees should park by the Staples fieldhouse and pool. Staples boys soccer’s 60th anniversary celebration will fill the parking lot by the soccer field and baseball diamond.)

Westport’s Newest SafeRide: A Life-Saving, Anti-Distracted Driving App

SafeRides — the local teen-run ride-sharing service that gave free, confidential rides home — shut down last month.

But SafeRide — an app that automatically locks a driver’s phone, eliminating temptations, distractions and possible disaster — is about to take off nationally.

It’s moving from a soft launch to a full-scale roll-out. And it’s happening right here, in a Westport home office.

SafeRide is the brainchild of Scott Rownin. He’s an eclectic guy. His degrees are in engineering and economics; he plays drums; he’s worked as an accountant, management consultant, equity trader and wealth adviser. But until he addressed the problem of distracted driving, he hadn’t found his true passion.

It happened several years after he and his wife Lauren moved to Westport. (Their first visit came during a Sidewalk Sale. “It was like the movie ‘Funny Farm,'” Rownin recalls, “where the entire town was set up just to sell a house.” They’re still in their “temporary” home, and love everything about the community.)

Scott and Lauren Rownin

A few years ago, Walmart ran a “Get on the Shelves” promotion. The megastore was looking for new products, from anyone.

Rownin had an idea: create a device to stop drivers from texting.

He hired a design firm, and began researching what’s legal and what’s not. Within 2 weeks, he had the beginnings of a device.

Since then, it’s evolved. There are a number of products already on the market. But they’re hardware-based.

SafeRide relies almost entirely on software. It uses Bluetooth as a beacon. Rownin says around 90% of cars now include Bluetooth. And those that don’t almost always have another device that does — say, GPS or a Bluetooth charger.

Recognizing any Bluetooth device, SafeRide locks the driver’s phone while the car is in motion. All phone calls and email sounds are turned off. Navigation and music apps are still available. And drivers can use a hands-free system (in-dash or headset) while the phone remains locked.

In an emergency, calls can still be made to a local responder.

Users can also set up customized auto-text replies, letting anyone who calls or texts know that the message will be responded to soon.

There is an on/off mode, so passengers can use their phones. Rownin is working on an “intelligent” aspect, where the app recognizes if a user is not in his or her own vehicle (and thus is, presumably, a passenger).

“If I were a teenager, I know I’d try to get around it,” he acknowledges. He’s worked to make SafeRide “teen-proof.” It reports misuse to a server — and parents can generate alerts and reports that show exactly when “passenger mode” was enabled.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

(Of course, as anyone who ventures out on Westport roads knows, the problem of distracted driving is hardly limited to teenagers.)

Rownin has relished every moment of this project. From product design and patent research to capitalization and marketing, he’s been driven by “making the world a safer place.”

His wife has been his biggest booster. “Every 6 months we have a heart-to-heart about this,” he says. “Lauren always pushes me forward.”

She’s also a “fantastic saleswoman,” and joined the team. “She’s killing it!” he says proudly.

SafeRide had a soft launch in March. Now publicity is ramping up.

Rownin hopes to keep the app free for parents. He foresees revenue coming from trucking companies and other organizations that employ large numbers of drivers, along with insurance companies that would license it, then provide it to their customers.

Further in the future, he says, SafeRide might come installed in every car that is sold.

It would be one more life-saving device no one even thinks about. Just like seat belts. Air bags. Or brakes.

(For more information on SafeRide, click here.)

Unfortunate New “06880” Feature: Today’s Car Plowing Into A Storefront

This happened just moments ago.

And yes, once again, it’s Compo Shopping Center.

another-car-into-another-storefront

(Photo/Betsy Pollak)

Yesterday I said, “Be careful out there.”

Today I’ll add, “Be afraid. Be very afraid.”

Sometimes It Just Doesn’t Pay To Park Between The White Lines

“06880” is full of photos of folks who park in the most ridiculous ways, wherever they please. Nothing ever happens to them.*

Last week, I p0sted a photo of yet another driver who plowed into yet another building. I wondered why it happens so often.

Today though, this poor car was doing all the right things. It was parked between 2 white lines. It had not jumped the curb.

Then — pow!

dunkin-donuts-delivery-truck-accident

(Photo/Merri Mueller)

A Dunkin’ Donuts delivery truck smacked into it.

And pushed it up against the building.

That’s life in Westport parking lots these days. Be careful out there.

*Except for public shaming on this blog.

U Drive. U Text. U Pay.

Look around.* It’s easy to see drivers everywhere in Westport using their cell phones. Texting. Probably looking for Pokemon too.

It’s easy to think there’s no enforcement whatsoever of Connecticut’s no-cell-phone law.

That’s not true. I get the police reports. I know that every week, our cops hand out a dozen or so tickets for illegal cell phone use.

Now through August 16, they’re handing out a lot more.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

The Westport Police is joining the state Department of Transportation’s “U Drive. U Text. U Pay” initiative.

For the 2nd year in a row, law enforcement agencies are adding special patrols to catch distracted drivers — especially those on their phones.

The last operation resulted in over 12,000 tickets throughout Connecticut.

At $150 for a 1st offense, $300 for a second and $500 for each violation after that, that’s a lot of money.

And — hopefully — a lot of lives saved.

(For more information on distracted driving, click here.)

*But pay attention to the road!


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Dangerous Driving: What Would You Do?

Alert — and terrified — “06880” reader Ellen Patafio writes:

My kids and I just witnessed an extremely scary sight. We were turning left from North Compo Road onto Main Street, across from Clinton Avenue.  A very young girl in a navy blue Range Rover behind us came flying down Compo. She made the left turn onto Main, tires screeching and almost tipping over. She was on 2 wheels. She landed hard on 4 wheels, and rocked back and forth.

It was frightening to watch. I kept my eye on her in the rear view mirror, hoping that incident woke her up to the importance of driving carefully.

We were both stopped at the light in front of Crossroads Hardware. When the light turned green, I moved ahead and turned to the right. This young woman was distracted by her phone. She did not move. When she realized she was holding up traffic, she again floored the gas and took the turn at a high rate of speed.

Car with 2 wheels

Do not try this at home. Or in Westport.

I am sending this to “06880,” thinking if I was this girl’s parents I would want to know that she was in need of some additional education on how to properly drive. As a parent, I would want to take this opportunity to have a conversation of the perils of careless driving and the effects they have on everyone — not just the driver. This situation could easily have had a very different outcome.

I did take down the plate number in case I ever run into her again. I would gently suggest taking more care when driving. I would have done that at the time, but the flow of traffic prohibited the opportunity.

That’s quite a story. “06880” readers: What do you think? How would you have handled the situation? As a parent, what would you do if a stranger told you this story about your child? Should the police be involved? We want to hear from you. Click “Comments” below — and please use your full, real name.

Oops!

I have no idea how — in the middle of a beautiful, clear day, and in the tight parking lot opposite Crate & Barrel, no less — this driver managed to park a car on top of a boulder.

Car on boulder - 2016

But if I had to guess, I’d say texting or talking on a cell phone might have been involved.

This Distracted Life

Every week, it seems, WestportNow features an automobile accident that came out of the blue. They happen in broad daylight, on beautiful, clear days.

Whenever I see a photo like the one on Easton Road last week, I think: cell phone. The driver had to have been talking — or worse, texting. How else could someone hit a telephone pole — or another car — in perfect weather?

Alert “06880” reader Fred Cantor has been thinking about this too. He writes:

The other day I sat at a light at the intersection of Green’s Farms Road and Compo. It was a beautiful fall day, with trees starting to turn — what we live for in Westport. I enjoyed the scenery.

The light turned, but the car in front didn’t move. I waited patiently. I saw the driver. Her head was tilted down. I assume she was occupied by her cellphone.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

Texting is so much more interesting than paying attention to the road.

I waited 5 seconds before tapping my horn. She started up like an Indy 500 driver. There was no “I’m sorry” wave. I guess she had been transported to another place, thanks to her cell.

A few days before that, my wife and I were at a bakery on a weekday afternoon. A man in a business suit came in with a middle school-age girl.

I thought: How nice. A busy dad picked up his daughter at school; now they’ve got some quality time together.

They got food, sat down, and proceeded to take out their cellphones. They looked down as they ate, with no conversation between them.

Recently at Compo, I saw a timeless scene: kids hanging out on the cannons at dusk. But as I got closer, I realized 2 of them were staring down at their cells.

Kids using cellphones on the Compo cannons. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

Kids using cellphones on the Compo cannons. (Photo/Fred Cantor)

I’m not a Luddite. I fully embrace the internet, and how we connect in ways unimaginable years ago.

But in the 1950s, television was seen as both a marvel and an innovation with downsides. My parents set clear rules about TV viewing in our home.

I would love to know what types of ground rules Westport parents set about cellphone access and use? Are they barred from dinner tables at home? At restaurants? What — if anything — are you trying to do to ensure that your kids are not only focused on what they’re doing, but that they know you’re focused on them?

Great questions, Fred! Let’s hear what “06880” readers have to say. Click “Comments” to share what happens in your house — the theory and the reality.

Cell Phone Etiquette (Red Light Edition)

Great minds think alike.

Alert “06880” reader Scott Smith sent this story idea along. But I’ve thought of it often. So, I’m sure, have you. 

Scott says:

Like most alert “06880” followers, I’ve enjoyed your postings about sloppy or selfish parking jobs.

And like any modern motorist, I’m aware of the dangers of distracted driving. I try to keep my best to keep my cell phone in my pocket when I’m on the road.

But I haven’t noticed any attention paid to a peeve that’s getting worse: The habit of some drivers to wait until they’re at a light to check their phone.

I’m sort of fine with that — except when the light turns green, and the driver in the car ahead of me still has his or her head down.

Cell phone use at traffic light

The car in front of theirs moves — but they don’t. The worst is when you’re in a quick left-hand turn lane. The driver in front of me usually notices the green arrow just in time to speed up and be the last car through.

This strikes me as a frustrating and growing trend. I wonder what the policy to counter such behavior should be. Do we give the cell phone driver a light tap on the horn?

Or do we just accept that traffic lights are a moment in time when you check your texts (or Google Map or Mapquest) for directions?

Either way, it’s driving me crazy.

“06880” readers: What’s the solution? Be creative — but not profane. Click “Comments” below to weigh in on this First World problem.

Dreadful, Dopey, Deadly Drivers

From time to time — okay, a lot — I talk about Westport drivers.

Not in a real positive way, either.

Readers always comment, adding their own examples, insights and invectives.

But we’re the blog version of Sunday drivers, compared to another website.

Dreadful Drivers devotes itself twice a week — and solely — to the “anger, bafflement, disbelief and, very occasionally, amusement” created by the antics of Fairfield County motorists.

Yesterday’s post was a classic. Referring only to Westport, it read:

Holy smokes, it’s been a bad week on the roads in this little zip code.

Three incidents stand out:

An SUV driver pointed a handgun at the passenger of another car on the Wilton Road. What a nice fellow. According to the news report, the gun-toter overtook another car in a no-passing zone and when both cars were later stopped at an intersection, the passenger of the passed car  got out (terrible mistake! never do that!) and went to the SUV. Whereupon he found himself staring at a handgun. Police later tracked down the SUV driver and found him in – legal – possession of a Glock .40-caliber handgun. 

A woman driving on Bayberry Lane slammed her Buick SUV into a utility pole so hard that she snapped the pole. Bayberry Lane twists, winds, dips and climbs and would be Westport’s own rally track, except that it’s a public road, lined with (rather large) houses so the speed limit is 25 mph (and 20 mph in places). So either the driver had a medical incident (quite possible), wasn’t looking at the road (very possible) or was driving too fast (everyone does). Bayberry Lane is also popular with cyclists and runners, me included. I’ll avoid it from now on. If Buick driver can’t see steer clear of a utility pole, then moving targets have no chance.

This drunk driver could be any other, until you read the detail of the story. Police had tried to stop the woman driver on the Post Road, but she proceeded onto the I-95 northbound. While driving within the speed limit, she was swerving widely in her lane. Local and state police cruisers brought the car to a halt and the woman driver, smelling of alcohol, “could not stand up on her own and had trouble keeping her eyes open” according to cops. WTF. WTF! Take away her driving license and give her a bus pass.

Beyond dreadful.

“Dreadful Drivers” is right. It is beyond dreadful.

But also waaaaay  too typical.