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By Jeremy Schiffres, Daily and Sunday Freeman, Kingston, N.Y.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Don't read this on your iPhone while driving

There’s an article in this morning’s New York Times about a proposal to prohibit text-messaging while driving anywhere in New York City’s five boroughs.

The impetus for the legislation, which the City Council is to take up next month, is a horrific accident 14 months ago in the Finger Lakes region in which five teenage girls from the Rochester area were killed when their sport utility vehicle crossed into oncoming traffic on a rural road and struck a tractor-trailer head-on. The police investigation of the tragedy revealed the girl who was driving the SUV was sending text messages on her cell phone just seconds before the crash and apparently had taken her eyes off the road just long enough for her vehicle to drift over the double-yellow line.

That a ban on “texting while driving” is being proposed is unsurprising. Any law that helps protect drivers – especially young drivers – and the people they may crash into makes sense. What is surprising is that civil liberties groups, most notably the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, oppose the New York City legislation. “To criminalize all stupid behavior is fruitless,” Joseph L. Bast, the group’s president, told the Times when asked about the proposed texting ban.

Mr. Bast’s argument would make sense if things like drunken driving and texting while driving imperiled only the offender. But as the Finger Lakes accident – and so many drunken-driving accidents – have demonstrated, the lives of innocent bystanders often are cut short by the careless acts of others.

One would think people are smart enough not to send or read text messages while driving. But that apparently isn't the case. So if criminalizing the act is what it will take to prevent more senseless deaths, I say "yea."



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