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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883


Solutions from readers

It’s open to discussion if their solutions are viable, but readers regularly send me their ideas for improving highway safety.

For example, regarding phone distraction, R.B. suggested,  “After reading your column today I had a thought; why can’t we get cell phone makers to make their phones go into airplane mode with speeds over 3 miles per hour? The electronic log books in our semi-trucks do this so as not to distract you and also so you can’t use the device until you are almost at a stop. Now this would be a fair way to stop distracted driving by cell phone.”

That’s not a bad idea, but I fear that no individual phone manufacturer would take that step unless it became a federal mandate.  Since consumers want constant access to their devices, any phone company taking that lead would inevitably lose sales to competitor’s phones that would still work while moving at speed.

E.K. has concerns about the number of devices “built in” to modern vehicles and the distraction they cause.  His implied solution is to curtail their proliferation.

He wrote, “I don’t see an end to the distractions being placed in vehicles manufactured today. Most all new cars, trucks, and even touring motorcycles come equipped with a ‘TV’ screen prominently placed on the dash. A lot of drivers can’t go to the grocery store without the audio-video display telling them every turn to make. It’s counter productive to install these types of distractions and then expect drivers to not use them while actually driving.”

Again, manufacturers are responding to consumer demand, and if a vehicle does not have those features, it does not sell.

E.K. has general apprehension about over-dependence on electronic navigation as well, noting, “Relying on GPS is useful but certainly not the end-all, be-all that some drivers assign it. When relying totally on electronics to get from one place to another, sooner or later you're going to end up needing more than a touch screen to get out of a predicament.”

I agree that many youthful drivers have not been able to develop a natural sense of direction, and could become easily lost if their electronic directional aids were to fail.

Regarding the merge from U.S. 195 northbound to I-90 eastbound, described by many as a debacle, N.E. opined, “Driving I90 E as you’re coming down the hill and approaching this intersection you can’t see the sign with the flashing lights until you’re out from under the last overhead then BANG, small sign, SMALL LIGHTS, and you have 770 ft to read the sign and react at 60mph. Ridiculous! They should take that sign, enlarge it and put big LED LIGHTS on all four corners of the sign then place it further west where the TOW AWAY Zone sign is now and move the tow away zone sign farther east where the merge sign was. Those puny lights they have on it now have so much over spray on them you can hardly tell they’re on.”

Agree with him or not, N.E. has obviously devoted thought to improving the safety at the subject location and is unafraid to propose solutions.

Whether any of these suggestions will become realized is uncertain, but I find it refreshing that these drivers are applying thought to the driving process.  I believe their awareness alone likely helps them drive more safely.

Readers may contact Bill Love via email at