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The ongoing distracted driving debate: A need for harsher exactions?

The story of a teen-aged girl in Utah who was recently struck while walking by a man who was texting and said by police to be driving while drunk is serving as yet another reminder of the ravages wrought by distracted and even mindless driving on the nation's roadways. Luckily, the girl survived, although a number of surgeries await her. The driver took his eyes off the road for an estimated two seconds and was two words into his text when the accident occurred.

As Ohio readers will readily note, the story's headline locale is basically irrelevant: Every day in every state across the nation, including in Ohio, car accidents occur because, sadly, a motorist was busily engaged in activities other than driving.

A number of commentators and safety officials are growing tired of the behavior and what they say is laxity in the laws of many states in confronting it.

"At what point do you cross over saying, someone needs to do jail for this before they kill someone? asks one state prosecutor. He and others note that it may be time to up the ante on texting while driving to a penalty that more closely approximates that attaching to drunk driving.

Relevant statistics can be readily summoned by proponents of such a view. The National Safety Council states that a car crash owing to cell phone use occurs in the United States every 24 seconds. An estimated 80 percent of all crashes owe to a driver being focused on something -- texting, talking, eating, grooming -- other than driving.

And approximately 1,200 people are hurt by distracted motorists every day.

Source: KSL.com, "Victim of distracted driving: 'Two seconds' changed my life," Mike Headrick, Feb. 19, 2013

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