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Stop driving while distracted

Wednesday, February 5, 2014
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Education about the dangers of distracted driving — i.e., while texting and talking on the cellphone — hasn’t worked, nor have laws against it. Technology has created the problem, and technology can and should be used to prevent it.

That will be the subject of a summit tomorrow in Washington, involving car makers, cellphone carriers, communication technology firms, safety advocates and government regulators, called by Sen. Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Education.

One-third of the 33,500 traffic fatalities in 2012 have been attributed to distracted driving, with young drivers most likely to be involved, and one-sixth of the 2.4 million injuries.

That’s an unacceptable toll, especially since it’s so unnecessary. With the exception of emergency calls, there’s no reason a driver can’t pull off or wait until the end of the trip to connect. Personal convenience isn’t more important than public safety, and this is a major public safety issue.

The technology already exists to block or divert non-emergency phone and text messages while the driver is behind the wheel and the vehicle is in motion, leaving passengers to use their devices as they want. Communications and car companies need to show responsibility and deploy it, or the government should make them.

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