Driving by Example

Driving is serious business, requiring concentration, caution, and common sense. Isn't that what we tell 16-year-olds as they get their licenses?

Unfortunately, it isn't what a lot of their elders practice. Recent evidence of that comes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which issued an advisory about the hazards of mixing cellphones and other gadgetry with driving.

The agency cited growing data that drivers distracted by phone conversations or on-board computer screens can cause collisions. It also warned the manufacturers of such equipment that they should take safety into account in designing their products.

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An official warning is not a law, and efforts to pass laws regarding cell-phone use while driving have failed in the United States, though a number of other countries have such laws. But the warning should cause people to reconsider their habits on the road.

At the least, it may be best to forget the phone when the traffic is bad or the weather severe.

Certainly the phones can be useful, and probably even safety-enhancing when employed as really needed. That's a judgment call. But judgment is the essence of good driving.

In that regard, judgment ought to dictate obedience to traffic laws. Speed limits, stop signs, etc. exist for good reasons. But highway-safety institutes, state police departments, and others report a serious lack of respect for these laws among Americans. People appear ready to take chances and risk fines in order to save a few minutes. Many drivers, according to research, feel no compunction about breaking traffic laws.

But they ought to. Traffic safety is a community effort that enhances everyone's well-being. There is a moral obligation to stop at stop signs, stay focused on the road, and set a good example for tomorrow's drivers.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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