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Opinion: Distracted driving costs lives

This is in response to a letter from a reader who disagreed with proposed legislation, H.62, now pending in the Vermont House, titled: An Act Relating to Prohibiting the Handheld Use of a Portable Electronic Device While Driving. This reader claimed she was an experienced driver, and could easily talk on a cell phone while driving.
As a personal injury attorney who too often sees the tragic consequences of distracted driving — including sitting with bereaved families who have lost a loved one, or whose loved one has suffered serious personal injuries, as the result of a collision with a distracted driver — I decided to join with others around the state to speak out about the dangers of distracted driving, and try to “get ahead” of the curve. I started by examining my own driving, and realized that I was wrong to think I could safely multitask while driving without endangering anyone. I have now “taken the pledge” not to drive distracted, and not to call or text those I know to be driving.
I have also started making presentations to area high schools, with State’s Attorney David Fenster, to educate our teens about the dangers of distracted driving. So far we have presented at Middlebury Union High School, and are planning similar presentations at Mount Abraham and Vergennes union high schools.
The fact is, none of us is able to drive safely while engaging in anything other than driving. If we drive while … talking on a cell phone, texting, eating, programming the GPS, reaching for a CD, or doing any of the myriad other things so many of us do while driving, we are actually reducing our brain’s ability to focus on driving by close to 40 percent. Everyone agrees it’s dangerous to drink and drive. But texting or cell phone calling (or doing any other tasks) while driving impairs our reaction time and driving ability as much as, or more than, driving over the legal alcohol limit.
See for yourselves, by visiting http://enddd.org/. Join me and take the pledge not to drive distracted, and urge Gov. Shumlin to support H.62.
Emily Joselson
Middlebury

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