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Electronic Devices Behind the Wheel

By: Roger Sheppard
By: Roger Sheppard

Drunk Driving vs. Distracted Driving = No difference

The genie is out of the bottle when it comes to the use of hand-held electronic devices by drivers. Now the question is: can anyone put the genie back?
I’m afraid the answer is: “no.”
I read recently that talking on a cell phone while you’re driving a motor vehicle, impairs your driving to about the same extent as being legally intoxicated.
While that’s hard to imagine, the rising number of vehicular accidents that are traced to some sort of in-car distraction, tends to support that finding. Whether it’s eating, turning up the music, reaching for an object on the floor, applying makeup, talking on the phone, sending text messages, or using a G-P-S device, there’s no doubt that Americans are increasingly distracted behind the wheel.
Just as deaths from alcohol-related accidents have fallen, the accidents caused by distraction have picked up the slack. Whether a motorist, a pedestrian, or a bicyclist is killed by a drunk driver or a distracted driver makes no difference. The victim is just as dead either way.
There is growing support in many states for banning the use of hand-held phones by drivers. But while that happens, more and more people are moving to hands-free devices. I feel confident that somewhere down the road, research will show that merely freeing up the HANDS of drivers, who may or may NOT then choose to keep those hands on the steering wheel, will have little or no affect on reducing fatal accidents. Those drivers’ mind are still somewhere else, even if their hands are not. But I’m afraid that hundreds of people will have to die before that fact becomes known.
It’s just another example of how technology almost always out-paces our ability to deal with it. And trying to legislate out of existence things that people want is virtually impossible. Remember Prohibition?
Hands-free is a good idea. A total ban on driver use of anything not related to driving would be better. But if my recent experience of listening to New York City cab drivers talk almost endlessly on their hands-free devices while speeding thru traffic is any indication, that will be impossible.
By the way, I have also done an extended blog about the proposed changes in America’s health care system. If you’re interested, you can also find that under my editorial blog here on wtap.com’s blog page.
That’s this week’s editorial.
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