Today's New York Times has a story
about how the feds suppressed findings from in-depth research on "distracted driving"—especially driving while using a cell phone, even with a hands-free headset.
“We're looking at a problem that could be as bad as drunk driving, and the government has covered it up,” said Clarence Ditlow, director of the Center for Auto Safety. ...
The highway safety researchers estimated that cellphone use by drivers caused around 955 fatalities and 240,000 accidents over all in 2002.
That year in New Mexico, officials counted
49,613 crashes; 449 people were killed. "Contributing factors" in all those crashes included alcohol in 3.9 percent of those crashes—compared to 10.3 percent for "driver inattention."
Of course, cell phones have only become more common since then.
Other research, the Times reports, "shows that motorists talking on a phone are four times as likely to crash as other drivers, and are as likely to cause an accident as someone with a .08 blood alcohol content
Why bring this up now, with so much attention still focused on the recent, tragic drunk driving deaths
Because the debate
so far has focused
on new ways to punish drunk drivers
. Is that really the goal? Or is the goal to save lives?
If the latter is more important, then New Mexicans should look for practical ways to make the roads safer, from drunks and cell phone yakkers alike.