Archive for Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Editorial: Deadly year for motorists

It may be time for Kansas to consider restricting cellphone use, given the number of deaths related to inattentive driving.

March 14, 2017

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An alarming increase in traffic fatalities in Kansas reiterates the importance of limiting cellphone use while driving.

There were 432 traffic fatalities in the state in 2016, a rate of almost 1.2 deaths every day. The total number of fatalities increased by 22 percent from 355 in 2015. In fact, 2016 was the deadliest year on Kansas roadways in more than a decade. And after a quarter century of steady declines in the rate of fatal accidents per million miles traveled, the rate has ticked upward each of the past two years.

The trend is not isolated to Kansas. The National Safety Council reported that fatalities nationwide increased 6 percent in 2016. The number of people who died in traffic accidents last year was more than 40,000 for the first time in 10 years.

The National Safety Council reports that only Alabama, Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa and New Mexico had a larger percentage increase in traffic deaths than Kansas from 2015 to 2016.

About 20 percent of all traffic accidents in Kansas are caused by what the Kansas Department of Transportation calls “failure to give full time and attention” to the road, by far the leading contributing factor in Kansas traffic accidents. Cellphone use falls under the “failure to give full time and attention” category.

Ken Kolosh, a statistics manager with the safety council, said cellphone use is not the only factor in the spike in traffic accidents. As the economy improves and gas prices fall, more cars are on the road, increasing the risk of accidents.

“We have been examining traffic fatalities since 1913, and we know they ebb and flow with the economy,” Kolosh told the Wichita Eagle. “When our dollars improve, our roadways become more dangerous.”

But Kolosh said miles driven increased 3 percent while traffic deaths increased 6 percent, meaning other factors such as cellphones are at play.

It’s illegal to text while driving in Kansas, but it’s not illegal to talk on a cellphone while driving. Studies have shown that using a cellphone is distracting for drivers and it doesn’t matter if the driver is holding the phone in his or her hand or is using a hands-free device.

More than a dozen states — California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia — plus the District of Columbia prohibit the use of hand-held cellphones while driving. Given the alarming increase in traffic fatalities, perhaps it’s time Kansas reviewed the effectiveness of such laws and considered a similar ban here.

Comments

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 6 months, 1 week ago

Excellent and true editorial. I use a bluetooth, and it is distracting, just as if I were holding a phone to my ear. If I need to make a call, or get a call, I pull over at the nearest available place, or tell them I will call them back. This, even though I was taught to multi task many years ago. It is not the phones that are the problem, it is trying to use them while driving. Once I was pulled over on I-70 west of Topeka, making a call. An alert young KHP trooper pulled up behind me and came up and asked if I needed help. No problem, I said, just making a call. I thanked him for checking as it could have been a medical issue. He thanked me for pulling over to use the phone. If it takes a new law to make people use common sense with phones and driving, then by all means do it. I have seen horror stories, people changing lanes and almost hitting my SUV while chatting away on their phone, totally oblivious to the vehicles around them.

David Holroyd 6 months, 1 week ago

And just how does the editorial staff writer propose to limit the use?

The only workable plan is that the phones will not work when the engine is running!

Fat chance that will happen. Some big billboards, that say "Text while you drive, this may be your last Christmas" Talk while you drive, the nearest funeral home is 1 mile away" Big, really big billboards.

Mr. Bloss, a new law wil not stop it. Who is to enforce it? One gets pulled over, 3 drive by.

Put up billboards with a photo of the deceased and the wrecked car., with the caption " This could be you, go for it!"

Carol Bowen 6 months, 1 week ago

Cell phone use was discussed during meetings of the Traffic Safety Commission years ago. There were no comments from the audience until it was formallyput on the agenda. Many young professionals crowded the room to support cell phone use while driving. A KU prof presented his research on the cell phone use as a driving distraction. A city attorney explained that the best we could do was claim cell phone use as a secondary offense. (That means that a driver has to be pulled over for another violation first.)

The crowd and the newspaper overwhelmed the commission. A secondary offense is lame. If the commission had banned cell phone use entirely, it would have been easier to enforce.

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