A story in Friday's Journal-World focused on the efforts many states are making to eliminate driving distractions that range from using a cell phone to playing the flute.
In Vermont, lawmakers are considering a ban on eating, drinking, smoking, reading, writing, personal grooming, playing a musical instrument, interacting with pets and cargo, talking on a cell phone or using any personal communication device while driving.
The idea of someone trying to play the trombone while behind the wheel is a comical image, but clearly the problem of distracted drivers is no laughing matter. Examples of dangerous driving behavior are around us every day.
Picture a young woman getting into her car in a fairly crowded local parking lot. After fastening her seat belt, she reaches into her purse to pull out her cell phone and makes a call. All well and good. Up to now she is stable and stationary.
But using one hand to hold the phone to her ear, she now uses the other hand to start the car, put it into reverse and start backing out of the parking space. Even though there are other vehicles coming from both directions, she keeps trying to maneuver into the street, all the while talking with her head cocked to one side in a way that prevents her from using her full field of vision. Other drivers just shake their heads, unless they, too, are on a phone.
Teens get often-deserved criticism for behavior that endangers themselves and others in their vehicles, but drivers of all ages can fall prey to distractions such as food or cell phones. Friday's story also cited fatal accidents in Illinois, California and Washington that involved drivers who were distracted by their cell phones. This is only a sampling of the many accidents caused by distracted drivers.
The Vermont measure, which includes a possible $600 fine, may seem extreme, but it's easy to understand why lawmakers there and across the nation are considering action to curb accidents that could have been prevented if motorists had simply been paying attention to their driving instead of something else.
Was there some reason the young woman couldn't have completed her phone conversation before backing out of the parking stall and threatening other drivers? The importance of any of the activities cited in the Vermont bill pales by comparison to the importance of paying close attention while operating a motor vehicle.
It's been said that the Good Lord takes care of fools and drunks, and in many instances that must be true. Considering the prevalence of driving distractions it is amazing there aren't even more serious or fatal accidents. Making people pay attention to their driving may not be something that states can legislate, but it's easy to understand why many would try.