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Our View: Cellphone abuse on road out of control

Our View

Posted: March 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 2, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 


This week, officials from the California Highway Patrol announced that they were launching a $1 million campaign to encourage drivers to use seat belts. The money, from a federal grant, seems to be wasted urging people to use an obviously beneficial device that’s been standard in U.S. cars since the 1960s.

It makes more sense for this money to be funneled into a newer cause that is a major safety issue on California roads and highways: motorists using their cellphones while driving.

Since July 1, 2008, it has been illegal to use a cellphone while driving in California without using a hands-free device. Yet, one needn’t look very hard to find far too many drivers ignoring the law in the SCV and elsewhere and putting other motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, etc., at risk because they’re operating thousands of pounds of machinery at high speeds without paying attention.

We’ve all seen drivers doing it — or done it ourselves — since 2008. And many out there can attest to close calls or accidents caused in part by drivers being distracted when talking, texting, tweeting, Web-surfing, etc., on their cellphones.

While many out there may scoff at the perceived oppressiveness of curbing cellphone use while driving, those same people will surely be reconsidering that position if they or their families or friends are hit by someone who didn’t have enough respect for the responsibilities of safe driving to put his or her phone down until stopped.

The CHP should especially target teens and 20-somethings in campaigns against distracted driving, as members of that demographic are the ones on their smartphones most often and they’re less experienced as motorists. And they’re less likely to understand how distracting calling or texting can be while behind the wheel because they’ve likely spent years doing daily tasks with phones in hand.

And, besides getting young drivers off their phones, law enforcement should also emphasize avoiding other in-car distractions — eating, applying makeup, fiddling with the radio, focusing on other people or pets in the car, etc.

Any time a driver’s mind is separated from the most important task at hand, it is a potentially dangerous situation, and one that could harm innocent bystanders.

We hope that the CHP and local law enforcement officials refocus their efforts toward the new and ever-worsening problem instead of focusing on one that should have been settled 40 years ago.

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