The Park Record editorial, December 14-16, 2011 | ParkRecord.com

The Park Record editorial, December 14-16, 2011

One moment of distracted driving, two lives devastated

The transcript of last Friday’s sentencing of a local teen who crashed her car into a woman on horseback should be required reading for everyone, not just teens. The testimony lays out in painful detail the anguish felt by both the family of the woman who was critically injured and the teen who struck her.

In just one moment of distracted driving, those two lives were forever changed. According to court testimony on Friday, the teen looked away from the road to look at her iPod when she ran into Picard and her horse.

Lacey Picard, an athletic woman who owned her own chiropractic practice, is now relegated to a nursing home where she must endure an excruciatingly long and painful recovery process.

The teen driver, meanwhile, is struggling to cope with her part in the tragedy and has reportedly withdrawn from friends and family.

And, as the aftermath of the accident wears on, both families must work out how to pay the mounting medical bills.

In the meantime, Utah drivers are still engaging in reckless talking and texting on their cell phones, and continue to juggle other electronic devices including GPSs and iPods.

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Take a good look at the drivers surrounding you on your morning commute. How many are driving one handed, head tilted, eyes on their laps or otherwise distracted?

Apparently, these kinds of tragedies are on the rise. Nationwide, accidents related to electronic devices, primarily cell phones, have become an epidemic. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted drivers were responsible for more than 3,000 traffic fatalities last year alone.

In response, yesterday the National Transportation Safety Board called for a total ban on all drivers’ use of portable electronic devices in cars. One board member likened texting while driving to driving drunk. And it is easy to understand why.

We won’t ask for a show of hands, just a moment of silent introspection Have you ever glanced away from the road to see who just texted you, or to fumble with your iPod or to reprogram a GPS? Have you then looked up in a panic to find that you have drifted over the yellow line? Or have you been forced to swerve onto the shoulder to avoid an oncoming driver who was obviously engrossed in a phone conversation?

When it comes to cell-phone use, Utah is one of the country’s most permissive states. While 30 states ban cell-phone use by novice drivers, Utah has no such ban. And cell-phone use is only considered an offense if another violation is committed at the same time. The state does ban texting while driving, but we will let you judge whether citizens are actually complying with that law.

If we have learned nothing else from this local tragedy it is this: It is time to turn our phones and all other electronics off while driving. Let’s exert some common sense, peer-group pressure if necessary, and the law if all else fails, to refocus our eyes on the road.

Haven’t enough lives been damaged?

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