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New laws are for your own good

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POSTED: July 14, 2010 10:40 a.m.
This month, local and state authorities began enforcing a handful of new driving laws.
In a nutshell, there’s no texting or reading e-mails while behind the wheel, even if you’re at a stoplight. And drivers younger than 18 can’t use cell phones, period.  
In addition, the new law requiring seat-belt use in pickups (except those used for agricultural purposes) is now on the books and enforceable. Police around the state are expected to begin enforcing it as well.
Most motorists understand that these laws make sense. Some may even argue that the ban on cell-phone use should have been extended to adults as well. We don’t disagree.
But there are always those who will see these new attempts at making our roads a safer place as an infringement upon their rights — never mind that no one has a “right” to drive a car.  
The point these folks miss is that their right to engage in any behavior ends when it has a negative impact on the greater good. Remember that old saying that “one’s right to swing his fist ends when it hits another’s nose?”
That’s applicable here.
Those who text while driving clearly pose a hazard to the public. In fact, distracted driving in general is a danger. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation:  
• Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent. (Source: Carnegie Mellon)
• Nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted driver, and more than half a million were injured. (NHTSA)
• Younger, inexperienced drivers under 20 years old have the highest proportion of distraction-related fatal crashes.
• Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)
• Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s handheld or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)
In addition, the financial cost associated with distracted driving — hospital bills, insurance claims, damage to property — are around $42 billion a year, according to some reports.
That’s a lot of money that could go to more constructive uses.
Of course, laws only work when they’re either obeyed or enforced. Our hope is that, one way or another, these laws help make our roads safer.
 

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