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Published: Thursday, 4/30/2009

A vote on cell phone use

DISTRACTED drivers are a danger to themselves and everyone who shares the road with them. Voters in Bowling Green can drive that point home on Tuesday by making it illegal for motorists to talk or text on hand-held cell phones while driving in the city.

Whether it's at 70 mph on the interstate, 55 on a winding country road, or 35 navigating busy city streets, driving requires 100 percent of a driver's attention. More than 41,000 people are killed in accidents on U.S. roadways every year. In at least a quarter of those fatal accidents - that's more than 10,000 deaths each year - a distracted driver is believed to be the cause, meaning they were hardly "accidents" at all.

Despite the danger inherent in barreling down the street in a couple of tons of metal, plastic, and glass and with a reservoir of a highly flammable liquid, drivers often pay little attention to the road. They gab, sometimes even turning around to talk to someone in the back seat; adjust the radio, climate control, and GPS system; eat and drink; do their nails or put on makeup; read maps, magazines, newspapers, or books; talk on the phone, and even exchange text messages.

It's insane, but nearly everyone has been guilty of doing one or more of these tasks, sometimes several at the same time.

Cell phone use has rapidly become one of the most common distractions. More than 100 million Americans have a cell phone, and an estimated 85 percent admit they talk or text on their usually hand-held devices while behind the wheel. Naturally, many refuse to admit their driving is affected. But, then, many folks think having a couple of drinks before getting behind the wheel is OK too, and we know how that works out.

Some people also claim that phoning while driving is necessary for their business. But wouldn't it be better to slow down a little and smell the flowers rather than becoming one of the 10,000 distracted drivers pushing up daisies each year? Several cities nationwide, including three in northeast Ohio, have already put the brakes on hand-held cell phone use, as have six states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and at least a dozen foreign countries.

Five states have banned text messaging, which also would be illegal under the Bowling Green ballot issue. However, hands-free phoning would continue to be legal. On Tuesday, Bowling Green should vote "yes" on the proposed ordinance to ban the use of hand-held cell phones, sending a strong message of their own to drivers: Hang up.



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