The danger of distraction

By Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier


Distracted driving is a problem that includes many common behaviors. The use of hand-held devices — namely cellphones — may now be chief among them, simply because it has become so commonplace.

Iowa lawmakers are debating whether to give law officers some leeway in issuing distracted-driving citations to cellphone users.

Such a proposal would repeal the current law, which bars a person from using a hand-held electronic communication device to write, send or read a text message while driving a motor vehicle and bans cellphone use outright for young drivers.

However, that law is only enforceable as a “secondary action” when an officer stops or detains a driver for a suspected violation of another motor vehicle law.

A new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety shows more than 3,000 people have died in a single year because of accidents directly attributed to distracted driving. In addition, nearly half a million are injured each year in crashes involving distraction.

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found more than two-thirds of licensed drivers admit to talking on their cellphones while behind the wheel during the past month, despite the fact that about 90 percent of drivers believe other drivers using phones are a threat to their personal safety.

Many have argued that a distracted-driver law and the enforcement of it would be an erosion of freedom. No one would dare speak that way about drinking and driving, although the results can be just as tragic. Impaired-driving laws have been on the books for a long time. Frankly, we believe distracted-driving laws have been held at bay for too long. The result is that people believe it is a normal, rational and responsible activity to use a cellphone while driving. That goes for eating, reading, combing your hair or any number of actions that could lead to an accident.

Distraction has become a way of life. Unfortunately, for some, it has become a way to take a life.

If patrol officers are indeed on the road to promote public safety, then we should enable them to do so when they see a seriously distracted and dangerous driver.

We’d like to see Iowa Senate File 33 get some serious discussion.

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