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Birmingham, Alabama

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Danny Feldman
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Motorist reaching for cell phone hits and kills cyclist in Scottsboro

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Recently, a tragic event occurred which ended a man’s life when a young woman hit and killed him as, at least according to reports, see http://www.wkrg.com/raw_news/article/cyclist-killed-by-driver-reaching-for-cell-phone/224408/Jul-31-2009_8-18-am/ when she was distracted while reaching for a cell phone.

What this event points out is what all of us who drive while using the cell phone, texting, or while otherwise distracted know – and that is – that operating a motor vehicle takes concentration and that being distracted from concentrating while driving greatly increases the chances that we are going to crash and hurt or kill ourselves or others. Really, who among us hasn’t missed a turn or run a stop sign while having our focus off the road and on our phone or radio or child in the back seat? While some distractions are unavoidable – a screaming child – many are not. For example, using a cell phone is a choice that we make. Given that we know, both from many recent studies and from the inescapable fact that we "live and breathe" and have personally experienced the level of distraction that a cell phone causes, the question that I have is WHY? Why do we use these devices that we know increase the risk of a tragedy like the one that recently occurred in Scottsboro?

A few reasons come to mind: (1) we don’t think it will happen to us; (2) closely related to the first, we’ve done it before and not wrecked so it’s not going to happen; (3) we just don’t carefully weigh the increased risks with the miniscule benefit of making the call. What it comes right down to is that we are selfish and we end up putting our own needs and convenience in front of societies’ well being.

I confess that I am as guilty as the next person – I have made calls, texted etc. while driving. Given that I am an avid cyclist, this story rings close because there, but for the grace of God, go me – I could have been the unfortunate cyclist who was killed. However, the fact of the matter is that although I cycle 6,000 miles a year, I drive 2-3 times that many miles. In other words, I also am an avid motorist, and there, but for the grace of God, go me – I easily could have wrecked and injured or killed someone while driving distracted.

We are human; accidents happen. We don’t have to increase the chances of events like this occurring by talking or texting on the phone while driving. As for me, I am recommitted to turning off my cell phone in the car, and if I really need to make that call, it won’t be the end of the world if I pull off the road to do it.