April 29, 2021

Eating a sloppy burger while driving can mean higher insurance rates

Q: We all know how bad distracted driving is, from talking on cell phones to…

Q: We all know how bad distracted driving is, from talking on cell phones to having pets sit on our laps to eating a sloppy burger while behind the wheel. Shouldn’t the penalties be more severe?

Frank Reyes, Hayward

A: Yes, and soon they will be. Beginning July 1 in California, using a handheld phone or texting will also add a point to the driver’s record for each violation within 36 months of a prior conviction. That could increase one’s insurance rates.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nationwide in 2019, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. That’s nearly a 10% percent increase from the year before.

Also, in California in 2019, there were at least 18,698 crashes from distracted driving, which resulted in 108 deaths and more than 13,500 injuries — fourth worst in the nation, according to a survey by MoneyGeek, a personal finance technology company.

Q: I’ve had many near-misses as a driver and as a pedestrian. When I’m walking at intersections, many drivers not only roll through right turns, but are looking left while turning and not looking at anyone walking into the intersection.

As an Uber driver, I am frequently looking at my phone while driving. It’s part of the job. Once we get a ping for a new ride request, we need to carefully read the screen for 2 seconds to see the pickup location and figure out where it is and decide to accept the request before it disappears in 5 seconds. In any tense traffic situation, nearby pedestrians, or upcoming curves or turns, I discipline myself to completely ignore the phone and all other distractions in the car, and just let it go.

Riya Suising, Palo Alto

A: Disciplining yourself to ignore the phone and distractions is vital. The Uber response-time rules sound like they encourage dangerous driving. In the 2 seconds an Uber driver uses to read a new ride request before responding, their car would travel a hundred feet if the driver is going at 35 mph.

 Q: Pedestrians are also part of the problem and can be as distracted as drivers. Painted crosswalks, flashing lights and waving flags give walkers a false sense of security. I have witnessed people walk right in the street and put their hand up as if they possess some Jedi power to stop an oncoming vehicle.

When I am walking, I don’t assume the driver sees me and that the vehicle is going to stop.

Jim A., San Jose