The following guest commentary by Bob Beane was published in the Ahwatukee Foothill News 12/28/2014:
Recently, a bicyclist was killed on Pecos Road. Then, this past week, another cyclist was killed and two others hospitalized following an accident.
Nationally, driver fatalities appear to be declining (due to increasing occupant-oriented safety measures built into vehicles), but there is evidence that pedestrian and bicyclists fatalities are headed in the other direction. In fact, the U.S. Department of Transportation has just been tasked, by a rarely bipartisan Congress, with developing a separate metric to assess this very issue.
There are a number of new campaigns (Nissan red thumb band, It Can Wait, etc.) that ask motor vehicle drivers to stay off their cell phones while driving. And, there are other campaigns that attempt to address DUI, speeding and the need to slow down and move over when approaching public safety vehicles at roadside.
It is now time in Arizona to combine these informational campaigns with more significant penalties for negligent and inattentive driving, including much higher fines, longer suspension of driving privileges and serious jail time when crashes are caused that result in injury or death. Be it a pedestrian, a bicyclist or another vehicle driver, everyone deserves our full attention to “job one” when we drive: which is the safety of the driver, passengers and other roadway users. Nothing less should be acceptable, and we should back that up with commensurate legal consequences.
As a society, we need to emphasize the point that driving is a privilege, not a right, and we should legally enforce the expectation that sharing the roadway with others requires a higher standard of care.
Bob Beane is an economics graduate of the College of Wooster and an MBA accounting graduate of Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is also a bicycling advocate and has been a resident of Ahwatukee since 1992.