Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Driven to Distraction?

The National Transportation Safety Board has spoken, and there are two ways that you can look at it.

First, here's what they said, according to a story in today's Free Press: "The National Transportation Safety Board says distracted driving has claimed too many lives and made a sweeping recommendation today calling on states to ban the use of portable electronic devices for everyone behind the wheel – even if they have a hands-free device."

In other words, no talking on a cell phone, period. Even if both hands are on the steering wheel.

As promised, here are the two ways to look at this recommendation---which is all it really is, because the states pretty much write their own traffic laws.

First, seems that we all got along just fine for decades without talking to people on phones inside our cars. It's not so much that we have to talk---but that we can. So, we do.

Second, I think the NTSB should extend their recommendation to other distractions that I have seen, like the application of makeup, shaving and eating, among others.

Ask yourself: could YOU give up chatting on a phone in the car? And I mean, cold turkey?

“It may seem like it’s a very quick call, a very quick text, a tweet or an update but accidents happen in the blink of an eye,” Deborah A.P. Hersman, the chairwoman of the NTSB, was quoted in the Free Press story. “We’ve investigated a lot of accidents and we know a lot of times the distraction that’s there is not just about manipulating something.”



There's no question that the number of accidents involving drivers distracted by electronic communication gadgets is increasing. And the incidents aren't limited to the average Joe or Joanne on the road; people in whom we place our trust, like those who are in charge of commuter trains, tugboats and the like, are being distracted by laptops, texting, etc.

In fact, Blogger's spell check just flagged "texting," which is an accepted 21st century word but apparently isn't in their dictionary yet.

So it's an ever-changing world.

The NTSB might be overreacting, but it's hard to make that case when people are dying.

I am just like everyone else. I talk on the phone in the car, while driving. And mine isn't a hands-free model, either.

And I've looked down to change a CD or reach for a beverage.

So far, I've been lucky that none of those actions have resulted in me getting into a wreck.

If the states began implementing bans on devices, period, whether they were hands-free or not, I know there'd be an adjustment I'd have to make. It seems so natural, anymore, to pick up the phone and dial my wife or home. But, frankly, most of those conversations are mundane and can occur after I get home.

Safe and sound.

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