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The Real Cost of Distracted Driving

Fifteen years ago, on a trip to the mall, my daughter and I were hit at the crosswalk by a distracted driver who was under the influence of prescription drugs that warned against operating a motor vehicle.

At one end of the crosswalk, a group of pedestrians waited, hesitant to cross. An SUV had stopped several feet from the yield sign, music blaring, while the driver fixed her hair. The SUV driver looked up and waived everyone to cross the street. As we began to cross, my daughter’s shoe came off. I shouted out to the driver and raised my hand up as I grabbed her shoe.

As I bent down to carry my daughter the rest of the way, I heard a woman scream. I stood up and saw the SUV coming full speed at me, inches away from my body. Everything happened so quick. I didn’t have time to react. I held onto her SUV with every strength that I had and repeatedly hit the hood to keep myself from sliding under her car. Finally, I got her to stop. Frantically, I started looking for my daughter, but I couldn’t see her anywhere. I started yelling hysterically, asking where my daughter was, No one responded, everyone was in shock.

After a moment of silence, I heard my daughter struggling to breathe beneath the car. I instantly ran from the hood to the side of the car and pulled my daughter out from underneath the SUV. Her body was severely injured. I held her tight and screamed for help. I thought I was going to lose her as I watched her struggle to breathe. An officer came to our aide from the mall nearby until the ambulance came to take her to Children’s National Hospital. My daughter fell into a coma. Doctors said we had a 24-hour window to know if she would survive or not.

My daughter pulled through the night and had a long recovery from the head-on collision. She was 3 years old when the SUV hit her, and now she is 18. She was too young to remember this horrific day, but I hold these memories because both of our lives could have been taken from a distracted driver. There are others who have fallen victim to distracted drivers, whose lives were lost, or who sustained serious or life-threatening injuries as a result of a preventable accident.

Are you a distracted driver? Do you know someone who has been distracted while driving? I know that I have witnessed friends and close loved ones distracted by their phones and live streaming on social media while driving.

What is distracted driving? It refers to the act of driving while engaging in other activities which distract the driver’s attention away from the road. Distractions are shown to compromise the safety of the driver, passengers, pedestrians, and people in other vehicles.
Based on the 2019 driving statistics:

  • The pressure to respond to work-related messages while driving is common among adults aged 18 to 34 (37% of respondents compared to 25% of the national average among all age groups)
  • Parents with young children were more likely to be distracted while driving (87%) than were adults with no small children (74%).
  • Taking photos while driving was admitted by one in three female drivers.

The same study also uncovered differences between Android and iPhone users’ distracted driving behavior:

  • Claiming they never get distracted while driving: 23% of Android users, 16% of iPhone users and 38% of users of other mobile operating systems make this claim
  • Streaming and social media use is more than twice as likely from iPhone and Apple Carplay users than Android users. Admitting they watch YouTube videos: 10% of iPhone users and 4% of Android users admitted to this distracted driving habit

What does this mean? Drivers are not paying attention, additional driving education, training and awareness is needed. Educate yourself on distracted driving and save lives. Click here to learn more about defensive driving awareness.

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The Galapagos Islands and Climate Change (Small Actions Matter)

Have you ever heard the phrase, “every little bit helps?” It is a shame there are things we want to accomplish but we get discouraged because some of these goals may seem insurmountable. We may not realize that some of the things we already do may help reach that goal.  For instance, I got back from a trip to Galapagos Islands a few months ago. And as I was thinking about the trip, it occurred to me that the Galapagos Islands are like a naturalist paradise. As we make commitments to address climate change (big or small), we are moving closer to the goal of reaching a naturalist paradise of our own.

It’s always a good idea to break a goal down to various phases or parts and work toward intermediate steps of success. Even if establishing a naturalist paradise, or solving climate change if you will, seems to be unrealistic, the various steps one can take to help reach that goal are not.

One good example of this in the transportation world is  the “Vision Zero” campaign. I remember when it was called “Toward Zero Death” way back when. The idea is to set a goal of achieving no traffic fatalities or serious injuries from car crashes over a certain number of years. One’s first reaction is that it is an unattainable goal. OK, but then can you tell me if there is a group of people whose lives we can accept losing on the highway or local streets, since this goal is so “unattainable?” Could that be your wife/husband or significant other, child, parent, sibling, good friend, or a casual acquaintance? The answer is no. So we set about working with key partners and stakeholders to redesign dangerous intersections, install traffic calming devices such as roundabouts, install pedestrian road crossings, implement retroreflective signage, etc. We may not reach the ultimate goal but we will may see success along the way, in reducing the number of traffic fatalities.

My trip to the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador in South America, was in the early part of May, 2019. We visited the islands of North Seymour, Bartolome, Rabida, Fernandina, Isabela, Santiago, and Santa Crua. I was excited to see many species of plants and animals and had various opportunities to see them both on land and in the water. Some of the islands had very little transportation infrastructure, if any at all. In other words, I didn’t experience any rush hour unless you count the group of Orcas we saw one morning as we crossed the equator on the fourth day.  

20190512_175543I went on this trip with my sisters Virginia and Karen and my brother-in-law Stephen. I had no idea what to expect, but I was pleasantly surprised with the sights and the activities of this trip, and will always remember it. We were able to witness nature, whether from a shoreline tour on a zodiac boat, snorkeling along some of the inlets, doing a short hike along some of the natural trails and beaches or kayaking along the shores. One thing I like about traveling is being able to share my experiences with friends and colleagues. And boy did I take many pictures!

I won’t kid you, Galapagos has had its own issues in the past in which humans have introduced invasive species that have threatened the islands. But many foresighted naturalists and scientists have been able to mitigate some of those impacts, preserve the Islands and closely manage human interaction through limited tours. The wildlife is so used to visitors they don’t view humans as a threat and rarely scatter when you approach them. Nothing like being up-close and personal with a Blue Footed Boobie or a Frigatebird.

20190512_183340In fact, when we arrived at the hotel in Guayaquill, Ecuador and as we were about to take the trip from Ecuador to the islands, we were issued a transit control card. This card was given to all of us and was issued by the Government Council for Galapagos as a measure towards “sustainable human development and conservation of the Galapagos Islands.” The card was a way to limit the number of people on the tour so we could enjoy this natural paradise while at the same time maintaining its integrity and natural beauty.


What can this trip teach us about the importance of climate change? Whether you believe in the impacts of human behavior on climate or not, any action you take or day-to-day practice you follow that helps reduce the carbon footprint, is a good thing. It surely doesn’t hurt.

I am not pushing major policies, such as Cap and Trade, that are being hotly debated right now. It20190512_184609 is clear to me we will have to make critical decisions in the future in regards to climate and we need to understand the ramifications of action and inaction in addressing climate change.For the sake of this blog, I just want to point out that you yourself may already be doing your part in addressing climate change. Whether you choose carpooling to work over driving alone, or compost food scraps instead of throwing it out into a landfill, recycle cans and bottles or walk to the store instead of driving; we are all doing our share to maintain natural integrity of our own environment as best we can. Can we reach the ultimate goal of a Galapagos Islands in your neighborhood? Of course not, but in these actions, we are doing our small part in making the world a little more sustainable and a little more pleasant place in which to live. We are helping to preserve our environment for future generations.

Again, the Galapagos Islands are a place where humans and animals live mostly in perfect harmony in the natural environment. If that is the ultimate goal of completely addressing the impacts of climate change, any steps toward doing that are well worth it.

20190517_084847By the way, my favorite part of the trip was the last day when we visited the Charles Darwin Research Station, located near Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz Island, to see the giant tortoises.

We went to the center not only for the big turtles, but to see how the station raises young giant tortoises and then releases them into the wild. We saw some of the small turtles in their pens. This program is run in conjunction with the Galapagos Park Service. Since 1970, more than 2,000 tortoises have been hatched, raised and released. Later we went to a national park in the highlands of Santa Cruz and were able to see the large turtles in their natural habitat. Again, we were able to be with the turtles, up-close and personal.

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James Davenport is a TDM Employer Outreach Specialist, on contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation. Before that, James worked for Prince William County/Department of Transportation as a Regional Planner. In that capacity, he represented the county in regional forums and worked with planners and staff from other localities and transit agencies to help the region plan for its transportation future. For many years, James worked with the National Association of Counties as a project manager providing education and outreach to county officials, staff and key stakeholder groups on planning issues such as transportation, water quality, collaborative land use and economic development.

Dedicated lane for the streetcar.

Navigating Cities – The Best of my Travels

Over the last few years, my travels for conferences, workshops, projects, and personal have taken me cities in the US and aboard.  Because I’m such a transportation nerd, it’s always fun to see how easy it is to navigate from my point of arrival (train station or airport) to my destination and around the city with only the knowledge of the address of where I’m staying. Below are some of my reflections navigating different cities.

Most Efficient Airport – Munich, Germany: In October 2018, I had an opportunity to travel to Salzburg, Austria for a seminar on building healthy and equitable communities. I flew in through Munich, then took a train to Salzburg. Munich airport is the most efficient airport I’ve ever travel to or through. Even going through customs was faster than using Global Entry when I returned to the US. I had no problems navigating from my gate, through customs, and to the train. Most importantly, there were no lines despite the high volume of people. Even the security lines moved so quick, I barely had time to get my shoes off.

IMG_4393Easiest Train Station to Navigate – Amsterdam Centraal, Netherlands: Amsterdam is known by people in the transportation industry for its biking culture and infrastructure as well as its public transportation. Biking is the one thing I didn’t do during my vacation, but I did ride the streetcars. All that aside I give Amsterdam credit for the easiest train station to navigate. Even without knowing the language, moving through the train station was intuitive for me. The using of icons, such as “i” for information removed the language barrier.

Easiest place to navigate from the airport to downtown – Minneapolis, Minnesota: Last year, I did a day trip Minneapolis for the Institute of Transportation Engineers conference.  I flew into Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport and took the train to downtown to get to the conference hotel. Not only was it easy to navigate from my arrival gate to the train, but it was also close. There are a few other airports where it is easy to get to the train, but the train is a long distance from the airport, such as Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Getting a ticket was intuitive and it was a smooth ride into downtown Minneapolis.

Favorite City for Getting Lost – Tie between Antigua, Guatemala and Cali, Colombia: Antigua and Cali are my favorite for two completely different reasons. Antigua was great for getting lost, because it was easy to reset to get back on track. It’s a walkable City with a large volcano to the south, a volcano that erupts every twenty minutes or so to the west, and a large hillside with a cross on top to the north. Cali was great because of all the street art. We call it murals in the US, they call everything graffiti.  I spent several hours getting lost while exploring the graffiti.

I haven’t taken count of the number of cities I’ve been to around the world. These are the ones that stand out in my mind for a transportation-related reason. What are some of the best cities you’ve been to that are easy to navigate?

Veronica O. Davis, PE is a transportation guru who uses her knowledge to spark progressive social change. As Co-owner and Principal of Nspiregreen, she is also responsible for the management of the major urban planning functions such as transportation planning, policy development, master planning, sustainability analysis, and long range planning. In July 2012, Veronica was recognized as a Champion of Change by the White House for her professional accomplishments and community advocacy, which includes co-founding Black Women Bike.

 





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