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Distracted driving can cause tragedies

Traffic fatalities in the United States fell in 2009 to the lowest level since 1961. Considering that there are twice as many people now, that's a phenomenal development.

Federal officials estimate that there were 1.28

traffic deaths for every 100 million miles traveled.

In part, this reflects the fact that today's cars are better engineered and safer than the classic cars of the 1950s. Highways have come a long way, too.

But the biggest problem with the automobile remains: the nut behind the wheel.

Federal highways officials estimate that nearly 5,500 of the 37,313 highway deaths involved a driver who was distracted.

Charleston Police say at least 120 of the first 2,000 wrecks in the city this year involved a distracted

driver. But police officials suspect the number of collisions involving distracted drivers is much higher.

In a matter of seconds, an ordinary ride can go from smooth to fatal.

Modern technology is part of the problem. A cell phone can be a lifesaver if a car breaks down in the middle of the night. But a cell phone is also a temptation for a chatty driver. Texting, radios and even TV can also divert drivers from the task at hand.

Federal Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has taken on this cause.

"Behind these numbers, are children, parents, and friends, their families torn apart by senseless, preventable crashes," LaHood said in an education video.

Parents need to sit down with their children and discuss this. Parents also need to clean up their own acts. Keeping both hands on the steering wheel and keeping both eyes on the road are not a new concept.

The Kanawha County Commission banned the use

of cell phones by county personnel when they are in county vehicles, except in emergency situations.

That's good policy for families, too.


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