Monday, March 24, 2014

Distracted driving

From:  Pueblo Chieftain

Colorado lawmakers are considering a measure to limit the use of cellphones while people are driving.

With the explosive growth of hand-held technology, distracted driving has become a real problem for Colorado motorists. Texting while driving has already been outlawed in the state, but some elected officials and law enforcement leaders believe more should be done to force drivers to keep their attention on the road ahead.

We think that’s a good idea. Anyone who regularly drives is witness to fellow drivers glancing away, drifting out of their lane or failing to respond quickly to traffic signals or turns. Those engrossed in a conversation are simply a hazard as they are distracted from the driving task at hand.

House Bill 1225 would prohibit drivers from taking calls on hand-held devices, while hands-free technology like Bluetooth-type devices would be allowed. The use of phone apps while driving also would be barred.

Passage of the legislation hit a bump in the road when a House committee recently failed to approve the bill. Disagreements about fines and enforcement concerns temporarily derailed the bill’s progress. However, an amended bill may still be considered by the Legislature later in the 2014 session.

We think new restrictions on hand-held devices make sense, but even stronger limits may be warranted.

Research indicates that real distracted driving occurs when an individual dials a number, or glances down to read a message or grab their phone. Simply put, problems arise when motorists take their eyes off the road. Talking on a phone, however, doesn’t necessarily increase the crash hazard risk for motorists, safety studies show.

To ensure a motorist’s safety, and the safety of drivers around them, we think the use of all hand-held devices should be restricted. If someone needs to make a call while driving, they should pull over to the side of the road and dial.

We think some hands-free devices could be allowed under state law, but only if calling functions can be fully voice activated so that motorists keep their eyes on the road.

Presently, 12 states ban drivers from using hand-held cellphones while on the road. Colorado should become the next, with a few added rules that outlaw the operation of devices that require a person to look away.

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