Editorial: No more kid gloves for distracted drivers

Ventura County Star, Part of the USA Today Network

It’s really kind of pathetic that April is now designated as National Distracted Driver Awareness Month. If you’re not aware by now of the serious dangers posed by texting while behind the wheel and other forms of distracted driving, you must have been living on another planet.

The sad truth, however, is that most everyone does know how dangerous it is — and yet many do it anyway. So local, state and national officials must launch these special campaigns to remind everyone about the consequences. And as with anti-smoking and drunken driving campaigns, we suspect Distracted Driver Awareness Month will be with us for a long time.

We have long argued, in fact, that police need to enforce distracted driving laws every minute of every day of the year, as aggressively and comprehensively as they do drunken driving laws. We appreciate their special efforts this month — many departments will be deploying extra officers to look for cellphone scofflaws — but we urge them to take off the kid gloves.

Consider the results of a study released just this month by Cambridge Mobile Telematics, whose mobile apps tracked the driving behavior of hundreds of thousands of people. It found phone distractions occurred during 52 percent of trips that resulted in crashes. Those distractions lasted an average of more than two minutes, and 29 percent occurred at speeds over 56 mph. The worst distracted drivers were 2.3 times more likely to get in a crash than the average driver, the study found.

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