Safe Walk to School or Phone?

Mom worries about using
phones and earbuds when kids walk to school.

This is a logo for safe routes to school in Marin County, Ca.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: A Mom question- do you think it’s safe for an 11 year old that walks to school to have a phone? There are several big streets to cross, and I worry that he will be looking at his phone instead of the road. My son says everyone has a phone and most of the kids do walk to school in our neighborhood. D.D., Tiburon

Dear D.D.: A couple of thoughts on the question you pose. First, congratulations on living in a neighborhood where children can walk to school. Many schools, including the one in your town, have Safe Routes to School programs and you can get more involved with their training. Two communities I know of, Honolulu, Hi. and Montclair, Ca. have banned pedestrians from using phones and earbuds when crossing intersections, but it is not clear that there is much enforcement.

That said, don’t over-worry. Talk over the safety issues with your son and make a ‘compact’ with him to follow the advice from Safe Routes to School. Personally, I would threaten to take the phone away if you find he uses it while crossing streets. Explain that he needs to focus for the full time.

There is a lot of confusion around phones and pedestrian safety. On the one hand, the percent of traffic deaths involving pedestrians has soared from 12% to 16% between 2008 and 2018. During the same time period phone ownership surged, and car safety improved. However, this could be a spurious correlation. Seventy five percent of the pedestrian fatalities occur after dark. It is also known that 32% or more of the ped fatalities are alcohol related. As in distracted driving, it’s hard to get the ‘real’ rate when phones (or marijuana/drugs) are involved.

You are right to question whether kids, phones, and walking mix well. One obvious point is to make safety and phones an everyday lesson, and make it a new discussion point with the November 3 switch to Daylight Savings Time.

Should Citizens Use Phones to Report Traffic Violations?

Some communities will let private citizens upload pictures of traffic violations..what’s next?

source: A new spin on handheld phones!

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I read an article about people using smartphones to take pictures of traffic violations, and then forwarding these pictures to a city department that will issue tickets. Is everyone going to be reporting everyone else? Do you think this is a good use of our smartphones? Gregor, Marin City

Dear Gregor : In this case, the devil will be in the details. The NYT article reports that law enforcement officials in Washington, DC are considering this program because traffic fatalities and serious injuries have been on the rise since 2015. (Speculation here, but is this related to more distracted driving and cell phones?)

The article states that only Malibu, Ca. is doing citizen ticketing today. Local volunteers get 96+ hours of training with the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Meanwhile, many cities use ‘411′ type apps that let citizens upload photos of downed tree limbs, potholes, scooter violations, etc. The next step could be traffic violations. But this assumes that time stamps, geocoding, and levels of official review and appeals all support each other. It is a brave new world of smartphones.

Is Passenger Phone Safe to Answer?

Driver Distraction…Phones gone Bad.

Dear Ms. Smartphone: I noticed that you often take questions about drivers using phones. How about the case when a passenger uses their phone in the car, but someone else is driving them? Is this a safety issue or is it OK to do? TT, San Francisco

Dear TT: You question caught me off-guard, probably because I’ve seen all those movies where the hurried passenger in a taxi places call after call. Surprising, at least to me, it that it is not a good idea to make a call as a passenger. The literature says that overhearing only half of a conversation—a halfalogue”—is more distracting than other kinds of conversations because the listener misses the other side of the story. It’s serious: in the UK, passengers who take a phone call face a fine if they are training a new driver. Phones down. Thanks for elucidating me!