Dodging the RoadkillClarksville, Tn — In July of this year, Tennessee joined about 17 other states in implementing a cellphone law.  In the Volunteer state, drivers could face a fine of up to $200 for using their cellphone while driving.  Drivers 18 and older will be prohibited from holding or physically supporting a phone while driving.

My “unofficial” observation?  Nothing’s changed.

My brothers in law enforcement tell me that their superiors have told them to just give “warnings” until the general pubic understands the new law.

From 2015 to 2017, Tennessee topped the list for cellphone distracted driving deaths nationwide according to a new study by ValuePenguin of National Highway Traffic Administration data.

During that study period, more than 1400 fatalities were attributed to crashes involving drivers that were distracted by their cellphones.

What will it take?

Also from 2017 statistics, there were 7919 crashes involving alcohol impaired drivers or drivers who had used drugs.   There were 5375 injuries involving alcohol impaired drivers or drivers who had used drugs, and there were 348 fatalities involving the same impaired drivers.

What will it take?

In my nearly 40 year media career, we were CONSTANTLY urging the public to “Don’t drink and Drive,” or “Don’t do drugs,” or “Click it or ticket,” encouraging everyone to drive responsibly.  These warnings don’t work.  Why is that?  Why do people continue to risk not only THEIR lives, but the lives of the rest of us?

One of the first reasons, in my opinion, is that the penalties aren’t harsh enough.  If the worst thing that could happen to you is a $200 fine, then you’re not that concerned about getting caught.  If you lost your license for a year, then maybe you’ll reconsider being a distracted driver.

When it comes to drinking and driving, I believe that some jail time, and a HUGE fine should be a “zero tolerance” approach for first offenders.  If you get caught driving impaired, go straight to jail for 48 hours, $1,000 fine.  If you get caught again, double the penalty and so on.

Sadly, it all boils down to accountability.

For some reason, we refuse to be accountable for our actions.  “It could never happen to me,” or “I’ll never get caught,” is the mentality of people who willingly and knowingly get behind the wheel impaired.  We refuse to be held accountable for the risks involved while looking down at our phones while driving.

What will it take?

Bikers like us depend on other drivers to be at their best while operating their vehicle.  We depend on the other traffic to be as diligent as we are while traveling.  Sadly, that’s not the case.

Politicians and lawmakers give these issues “lip service” and don’t take the zero tolerance approach that they need, to get it through our thick skulls that THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE.

So until they do, I encourage you to remain ever diligent on your motorcycle.  Don’t develop habits that could risk your life, or cause you to get caught up in the path of an impaired driver.  We know the risks, and we will NOT be deterred from this lifestyle.

Now, if we could only get the laws necessary to force people to understand that this is NOT acceptable, maybe, just maybe, the highway would become a safer place to be.

Ride safe my friends, and thanks for following my journey.

photo credit: Gephardt Daily, a Utah news team