I recently read that the Glendale Police Department stepped up enforcement of motorcycle laws, citing more than 20 people locally, as part of a statewide effort to reduce the number of rider deaths.
As a rider, I'm grateful our police department is making motorcycle safety a priority. That said, it would also serve us bikers if they cracked down on the automobile drivers who think their cars are mobile offices, diners and day-care facilities.
I commute to work and love my weekend rides. I log more than 250 miles per week on my bike. I ride from Glendale to El Segundo every day, crossing several parts of Los Angeles County in the process. Those who know me can attest to the fact that I have said on numerous occasions that, "No part of my ride terrifies more than Glendale." How much weight does that statement bear? I ride four freeways during rush-hour traffic, and when I don't ride the freeways, I go through Los Feliz, Hollywood, Koreatown, South Central L.A., Culver City, and ultimately El Segundo. Glendale scares me the most, because nowhere else do drivers seem to care less about the safety of those around them.
When you sit on a motorcycle, you get a unique view of traffic and the drivers around you. Those who have never ridden have no idea what we see. As I ride, I constantly scan all around me, as I was taught in my motorcycle safety course. One thing I learned on my own was to look into the side-view mirrors of cars to see if drivers are paying attention to their surroundings or simply treating their time behind the wheel as an inconvenient distraction from their phone call, mascara application or jelly doughnut.
I don't hold automobile drivers responsible for the fate of us riders. I realize that a large number of motorcycle accidents occur as a result of rider error, particularly when it comes to speed and cornering. But for the most part, we riders are the most aware people on the highway. Why? Because we have no ability to sip lattes or apply aftershave while we ride. We don't have air bags, seat belts and thousands of pounds of reinforced steel surrounding us. Instead, we have helmets, jackets and thousands of pounds of reinforced steel coming right at us.
So why do drivers in Glendale seem so much more distracted than drivers in other parts of the county? I have no answer for that. There are no laws specifically prohibiting eating, applying makeup, shaving or playing with your toddler while driving. And the fines for texting and driving amounts to nothing more than a slap on the pinkie, so no one's going to stop doing that either.
Incredibly, I once saw a woman eating, texting and tending to her child in the back seat of her car — all while driving down Glenoaks Boulevard.
This was in Glendale, a place where we are constantly trying to crack down on drivers unaware of pedestrians by using a tactic of officers dressed as giant bunnies crossing the road. We are well aware that an attention-deficit problem exists between the traffic lines.
So maybe it's time Glendale drivers started paying attention to the road. If they're unwilling to do that, maybe the Glendale police should consider generating some revenues for the city by ticketing the most distracted drivers. It would be a great way to promote safety, not just for motorcyclists, but for pedestrians and other automobile drivers as well.
If the broad definition of reckless driving is "the intentional disregard for the safety of others and property," then our police department ought to be able to ticket drivers who intentionally impair their visual, cognitive and manual abilities to operate a vehicle with burgers, coffee and texting.
Doing that would certainly be a more civic-minded enterprise than ticketing parked cars for expired registration tags and broken taillights. I'd much rather our city be known as a place where you need to drive safely rather than the town that inspects cars parked in meters and lots.