, Salem, MA


November 29, 2012

Column: We need a solid solution to distracted driving

Sometimes it’s difficult to determine whether the benefits of the electronic age are outweighed by the liabilities, whether we as humans by making things easier have made them worse.

A popular Virginia elementary school principal on the verge of retirement was walking near her home obviously engrossed in the music coming from her earphones and was killed by an SUV whose driver was neither drinking nor speeding, according to an initial investigation. The cause of this tragedy apparently was a disease that seems on the verge of pandemic dimensions in the world today — a lack of awareness of one’s surroundings brought on by electronic distraction.

This virus seems to affect us all, often in the most personal way. My kid brother, a brilliant lawyer, was on his way home after a late-afternoon gym session when his car was struck by a pickup at a high rate of speed. He died instantly, leaving his family and friends bereft and his profession worse off. Who was at fault is still being determined. But mark this down as a cautionary tale. Both my brother and the driver of the other vehicle were talking on their phones when the accident occurred. My brother was belted in and all the air bags deployed. Nothing saved him.

It is difficult to drive down the street these days without seeing what seems like half the pedestrians in one’s vision with heads down, either texting, talking or listening on some modern convenience, completely oblivious to what is going on around them. Most drivers today must be aware of not only the cars and trucks in their surroundings but the foot traffic, as well. It is a new dimension that often requires a heightened defensiveness that can’t help but break down more often than not.

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