- - Thursday, December 3, 2015


Distracted drivers, and there are apparently a lot of them, are the shame of the American road. Many of them are electronic addicts who just can’t leave their cell phones and other devices alone. Distracted driving should be regarded as politically incorrect, though it’s more serious than being merely politically correct, and it’s certainly socially unacceptable.

Armed with cell phones and attitude, the talking and texting menace causes 1 of every 4 traffic accidents, according to the National Safety Council, which says there is no safe way to use a cellphone while driving. Federal estimates suggest that distracted driving accounts for 5,000 fatalities and 424,000 injuries every year as drivers pause for an average of 26 seconds to read or return a message. At any given daylight moment, 660,000 drivers are fussing with their devices. Distracted driving, the National Highway Safety Administration estimates, costs the United States $175 billion every year. Even accounting for bureaucratic exaggeration, it’s still a lot of money.

Dozens of interest groups, associations, federal, state and local governments, have demonstrated this error of the driver’s ways and him to put the brake on texting, to pledge to cease and desist and actually mean it. A Kelly Blue Book survey finds that 97 percent of the public says that distracted drivers are one of the greatest safety concerns on the road. Nobody defends distracted driving — i.e., using a cellphone at the wheel — and 46 states punish it by law. Still, a casual glance at the drivers on the streets and roads demonstrates that it happens.

Motorists are easily mesmerized by the trivia in their ears and at the trite and not necessarily true on the tiny screens at hand. Cell phones and automobile manufacturers could add a universal chip which would shut the device down when a car is shifted out of Park, but probably won’t until forced to by public opinion. The cops can’t keep up with it all. The culture, however, can. Where’s Hollywood? Where’s Madison Avenue and social media? Where are the scolds who go on attack the moment someone’s choice of “gender” is impugned?

President Obama dinged the practice in an official proclamation this week for National Impaired Driving Prevention Month, which is December. “Driving distracted, including while using a cellphone, can lead to tragic outcomes that are also preventable,” Mr. Obama says. Who can disagree with that? But it was just a ding. More should come from the White House and its media allies, damning distraction. This could be a useful part of the legacy that Mr. Obama seeks. The dread on the roadways increases. So let the bipartisan shaming begin.

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