Meandering through the rural roads of Martinez recently, this author spotted a man on horseback talking on a cell phone and couldn't help but wonder: Does this count as "distracted driving"?
The definition of "distracted driving," although a fairly new term, has been quickly expanding. Initially, it meant cell phone gabbers. Then texters. Now, it could mean anything from applying lipstick to changing the CD. According to distraction.gov, "distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving."
- Using a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player
This means from every A to every B, we not only regularly pass drivers indulging in at least one of these activities, but we are more than likely participating in a "distracting" activity ourselves. Drinking coffee, for example, counts as a distraction. So does changing the radio station. So too does chatting away to our carpool buddy.
Cyclists are also being looped in on distracted driving regulations, with proposed legislation in California that would fine cyclists $20 for talking on their cell phones.
And if driving is considered an activity one can be "distracted" from, and so does cycling, then shouldn't horseback riding be also?
UPDATE: Martinez Police Commander Eric Ghisletta confirmed that "horseback riders are subject to all rules of the road (assuming they are on the road)," adding that, "yes, they would be subject to citation for talking on the phone while on the road."
As to what constitutes distraction, Ghisletta said that cell phone use and texting is the principle concern.
"No, applying makeup or eating is not a citable offense in and of itself, but it definitely can be distracting and lead to other vehicle code offenses," said Ghisletta. "Obviously the intent is for the safety of the citizens on the road."
Do you have questions about "distracted driving" or a story to share? Let us know in the comments.