Time to stop distracted driving
ow many deaths are too many? In late June, the U. S. House of Representatives voted down an amendment sponsored by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va) that would “reduce the growing carnage on the nation’s highways due to distracted driving.” The vote was 222-175, with all but 10 House Republicans voting against the measure. The amendment promoted public awareness campaigns, prevention, and research—all of which are desperately needed. Each year distracted drivers cause 6,000 fatalities and half million injuries. The leading distraction is cell phone use. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, “at any point during the day, 11 percent of drivers are talking on cell phones.” These drivers, University of Utah researchers say, are driving drunk. Their impairment is equivalent to an alcohol level of 0.08. And if they are texting, they are 23 times more likely to crash than a non-distracted driver. Public opinion strongly supports the banning of both texting and handheld cell phones. The National Safety Council reports that popular approval is growing for a total ban on cell phone use. Elected representatives must set aside their political differences and enact measures that curb the distracted driving epidemic.
The Massachusetts legislature needs to act now to ban all cell phone use in order to put the brakes on distracted driving.