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Honk If You’re Going to Report This On the Internet

My first “Transport” column is up over at Slate.com. It’s about websites that comment on peoples’ (typically) bad driving. Familiar ground, yes; future columns will be less auto-centric.

One thing that that cut from the piece for space, just after the discussion of Jeff Frings filming his bicycle rides, is the idea of filming one’s ride for possible legal reasons. For instance, check out the video below, from motorcyclist Dawn Champion. It shows the following event:

On my way home from work Friday afternoon, a Honda Civic lost control in the HOV (Carpool) Lane. I was in the #1 (Fast Lane). The Honda Civic spun around on the freeway and came at me. No one knows yet why the Honda driver would lock the brakes, swerve out of control, and never try to correct it. If you watch the video though, you do see him accelerate at first towards the white car ahead of him. He doesn’t get that close to the white car – he still had at least a car length – but for whatever reason he slammed on the brakes, resulting in the locking of the wheels, burning/smoking tires, loss of traction, loss of control, etc. . I end up in the #2 lane. His vehicle is almost turned around 180 degrees in the wrong direction, completely across the #1 lane and into the #2 lane. His left front headlight/front panel T-boned the left side of my bike. This accident occurred on the 55NB/Dyer at 3:18 PM in Santa Ana, California. This is a 4 lane freeway with a HOV lane.

As she put it, “how many times have things happened to you and it became a ‘he said/she said’ situation and you just wished you had recorded it so you had proof?”). I’m not actually sure how often this sort of thing has been used in court; I do know DriveCam, which records the interior/exterior view of a drive, has been. But given the vagaries of crashes and crash investigations, not to mention eyewitness testimony (when it’s even available) — all of which is often slanted against the “vulnerable road user” — one wonders if wearing a camera is not being overly paranoid.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, May 2nd, 2009 at 3:04 pm and is filed under Bicycles, Cyclists, Etc., Traffic safety. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Honk If You’re Going to Report This On the Internet”

  1. Michael Says:

    Paranoid? Not hardly. Just ask Jeff at http://bikesafer.blogspot.com/ He rolls forward and rearward facing video at all times due to the aggressive nature of the motorists in his neighborhood. He seems to be getting through to the local LEOs finally. Originally they thought he was out looking for trouble rather than documenting what was always happening.

  2. Jack Says:

    “Unlike most other spheres of life, driving has particular dynamics that thwart civility”. Why is that so hard for others to see or is it? I suppose (fear?) that only blogs and video cameras will open the public’s eyes enough to start the debates.

  3. Rich Wilson Says:

    I’ve had bike commutes in which it was not uncommon to have to take evasive action once a week to avoid getting injured by careless drivers.
    I reported many of them when I was able to get the plate, but of course it was my word against theirs, so the best I could hope for was a warning letter.

    Video of the scofflaws who ran red lights and stop signs would have been particularly satisfying.

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Traffic Tom Vanderbilt

How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.

Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: info@howwedrive.com.

For publicity inquiries, please contact Kate Runde at Vintage: krunde@randomhouse.com.

For editorial inquiries, please contact Zoe Pagnamenta at The Zoe Pagnamenta Agency: zoe@zpagency.com.

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May 19, 2009
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Metropolis and Mobile Life
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