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Drivers and distractions

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Driving is an activity that requires keen concentration. Anything that distracts someone cannot only be dangerous but even fatal.

Cars and trucks are not toys. Their speed, combined with their weight, can turn them from a mode of transportation into a lethal weapon.

Too many people are using various technological gadgets to become too distracted while driving. Every driver needs to make a personal reassessment as to what is really necessary to do in a vehicle other than drive.

Cell phones, on-board computers, navigation systems and even televisions have invaded the domain of personal vehicles. They're great in a recreation room, but are they essential while traveling up to 75 miles per hour?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn't think so. Neither does the Network of Employers for Traffic Safety, which claims that distracted drivers cause at least 4,000 accidents per day and as many as 8,000.

Cell phones have been a particular target of the safety-conscious. A New England Journal of Medicine study from 1997 found that talking on the phone while driving quadrupled the risk of an accident and also was almost as dangerous as driving while drunk.

Florida, California and Massachusetts have laws that limit cell phone use in moving vehicles. Dozens of communities reportedly are considering restricting cell phone use while driving. No state bans the use of wireless phones in vehicles.

Certainly there were distractions while driving — eating food, playing with the radio, looking at billboards, etc. — before the invention of the cell phone and proliferation of other electronic gadgets. But now there are more opportunities to be distracted.

Having the federal government outlaw the use of electronic and other devices in vehicles isn't an appropriate solution. The primary responsibility has to remain with each individual driver. He or she needs to be responsible.

Drivers need to be accountable for their actions. Those who find they can't concentrate on their primary task while using a cell phone or other device, shouldn't use them unless the vehicle is stopped.

In this exploding era of technology, there are going to be even more electronic gadgets capable of distracting drivers in the future.

People need to rein themselves in so that the government doesn't have to.