Runner Relieved to Learn Motorist Who Hit Him Was Using Phone Hands-Free

A local runner is feeling grateful after learning that the smartphone-using driver who hit him earlier today had both hands on the steering wheel, thanks to Bluetooth technology.

“What a relief,” Brad Roberts, 34, told a doctor who delivered the good news. “I am happy to hear that.”

Roberts was struck by a midsize SUV around 7:30 a.m. as he crossed an intersection, with a WALK sign, during his morning run. The collision sent him flying nearly 20 feet.

The driver of the SUV, Ellen Reid, was having a phone conversation when she hit Roberts.

“(Roberts) came out of nowhere,” Reid later told authorities. “I just didn’t see him.”

Police described the accident as “unfortunate” and stressed the need for pedestrians to run defensively and wear bright colors.

“This particular incident could have been prevented if only Mr. Roberts had exercised more caution,” said Mitch Dorge, a police spokesperson, stressing that Reid had both hands on the wheel “before, during, and after” striking Roberts.

Asked whether Reid might have been unduly distracted by her phone conversation, Dorge shook his head.

“To reiterate, Ms. Reid was not holding her phone at the time,” he said. “Her phone was safely on the seat next to her.”

In fact, studies have shown that cell phone conversations are distracting in ways that other diversions are not, and that using a hands-free device does little to lower the risk. Conversing with someone not present in the vehicle, researchers say, produces a cognitive distraction that’s not just uniquely absorbing but insidious, as “people typically do not realize when they are cognitively distracted.”

Chatting with a passenger in the car is safer, too, because that person acts as a second set of eyes and knows to pause a conversation when traffic or other conditions require doing so.

Doctors said Roberts is in stable condition and may, in time, regain use of his legs—news that the longtime runner also welcomed.

“We will see,” said an upbeat Roberts. “In the meantime, I’m just happy the driver’s hands were on the steering wheel and not on her phone.”

“That,” he said, “would have been very bad.”