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Put down cell phone and focus on driving

Staff Report • Sep 23, 2013 at 8:39 AM

Hey you — the driver with the smartphone pressed against your ear. Who are you talking to? What call is so important that you ignore the fundamental rules of the road?Hang up and drive. Put the cell phone down and place both hands on the steering wheel. Your fellow drivers are not impressed by your abilities to multi-task. Truth is you are not as good at it as you think you are.We see you weaving in out of the appropriate lane of traffic. We shake our heads in disgust as you erratically slow down or speed up. Please pick a cruise control setting. The posted speed limit would suffice.Pay attention to what you are doing. Odds are the call is not as important as your own safety or that of the other motorists who have to be on the highway with you. Just hang up and drive. You, our dear friend on the cell phone, are what public safety officials call distracted drivers. The U.S. Department of Transportation says distracted drivers are to blame for nearly 6,000 highway deaths annually in this country. Driving distractions include eating, drinking, talking on cell phones, or sending and receiving text messages. It’s the latter two distractions that have public safety officials most concerned.Highway safety advocates and insurance carriers warn it is never a good idea to view or send text messages while driving. New federal rules specifically ban text messaging by truck and interstate bus drivers. Tennessee lawmakers passed a law in 2010 that penalizes drivers who text while behind the wheel. That law carries a $50 fine and an additional $10 for court costs. It is a non-moving offense, which means no points will be added to the offender’s driving record. That makes it a weak law, and one that doesn’t do enough to serve the public good. Lawmakers should consider putting some teeth into the measure when they return to Nashville in January.In the meantime, distracted driver, do us all a favor and hang up your smartphone. Your passengers, fellow motorists and your insurance company will be eternally grateful.

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