Distracted driving is not just dangerous and thoughtless. It’s also a major crime when associated with the most terrifying circumstances. On September 15, 20-year-old Ani Voskanian caused an accident due to distracted driving that killed 80-year-old Misak Ranjbar. This week, Voskanian was charged with vehicular manslaughter in Los Angeles County and placed in jail. Her bail was set at $50.000.
Accidents like this support the need for stricter laws against distracted driving. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has been vocal about the need for such laws. Just last year, he wrote, distracted driving killed 5,500 people and injured nearly 500,000. Moreover, texting or typing behind the wheel makes it four times more likely that the driver will crash. In April, the Department of Transportation launched pilot enhanced enforcement programs in Hartfort, CT and Syracuse, NY. LaHood proudly reports that in only six months, “hand held cell phone use has dropped 56% in Hartford and 38% in Syracuse; and texting while driving has declined 68% in Hartford and 42% in Syracuse.”
Sadly, such laws are not currently being enforced as adequately as they should be. Although California has a ban on texting and the use of handheld devices behind the wheel, drivers still think that they will not become one of the horrific statistics cited by distracted driving opponents.
In response to the recent uptick in distracted drivers, Contra Costa Times columnist Tom Barnidge wrote a sweeping denunciation this week about who he calls “idiots.” Here’s an excerpt:
Three weeks ago, the Automobile Club of Southern California reported that the number of those texting while driving in California has doubled since the state outlawed the practice in January 2009.
That study observed commuter traffic in Orange County, but similar findings were discovered closer to home. When East Bay authorities conducted a two-day crackdown in August, they issued more than 400 citations to motorists in Contra Costa County for violating the hands-free driving law — or one violation about every seven minutes, not counting the sneaks who eluded detection.
Just like some people will always refuse to wear seat belts and some will continue to drive drunk, it is unlikely that state governments can eradicate the distracted driving epidemic altogether. But be smart and remember to drive without texting, typing, or talking on your phone. And check out our list of tech devices that can help drivers manage these distractions.
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