Culture of Driving and Using Cell Phones Must Change

Last year, a fatal crash involving a Duck Tour boat and a barge in Philadelphia was caused by the use of a cell phone and laptop while operating a nautical vehicle. The Duck Tour boat had engine problems and stalled on the water, but the pilot of tugboat pulling the barge did not see the boat. Records indicate that the pilot mad and received 21 calls and surfed the Internet on a company laptop. Records also show that the deckhand of the Duck Tour boat was also sending text messages.

On Tuesday, June 21, 2011The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) suggested that the use of cell phones while driving must be perceived to be as taboo as drunk driving.  In the aftermath of the Duck Tour boat incident, the NTSB argues for a culture change. In he words of NTSB member Robert Sumwalt, “Distraction is becoming the new DUI.”

Right now, the mentality is that checking an e-mail, taking a phone call or sending a text message will take only a few moments. As any experienced driver knows, the environment on the road constantly changes. Traffic may suddenly slow down.  A driver might change lanes and cut you off. A light might suddenly turn red. Driving should demand 100% of our focus so we could be prepared for the many variables that arise. The cell phone factor is just another one of these variables that we can remove from the equation to prevent an accident.

California legislation has attempted to change this dangerous culture by implementing laws prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving. Law enforcement officials cannot cite every person who violates this rule, so let’s be more proactive in limiting our distractions on the road to be a safer driver for others (and ourselves) on the road.

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