Concentrate on the road

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 8, 2004

School is back in session. While seven or eight kid-free hours a day is likely a welcome break for many, it’s not exactly a vacation for adults.

While it may be a little quieter, parents’ responsibilities do not end when a new school year gets underway. Parents have to make sure children are focused on their schoolwork, reinstating parameters regarding television and bedtimes that may have been relaxed over the summer. They need to question children about what they do in school and whom it is they are hanging out with. They need to be involved in their schools, whether through the PTA for merely communicating with teachers on a regular basis.

Another parental responsibility – probably the biggest – is assuring that our children are safe coming to and from school each day. The best way to help assure that is to put down the cell phones while we’re driving, particularly during the morning and mid-afternoon when school children are on the roads.

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One need only take a glance at Suffolk’s public school bus schedule that was published Sunday in the News-Herald. Some nine pages of routes with hundreds of buses transporting thousands of children to and from Suffolk’s two dozen public schools. The sudden influx of that volume of traffic on our already crowded roadways vastly increases the risk of accidents and talking on cell phones while driving only increases it still.

Many cell phone users and states believe that by switching to headsets and other hands-free devices, that they can minimize the danger of having an accident. However, a sizable body of research concludes that it’s the mental distraction of talking on the phone, not holding it, that causes the danger while driving. And recent research suggests the devices could actually increase risk by encouraging people to spend more time on their cell phones and drive faster while doing so.

What’s more, according to a July study by National Highway Transportation Safety Administration people spent more time on the distracting task of dialing when they use headsets and voice-activated dialing systems. The new voice-activated dialing method took nearly twice as long as punching the buttons on the phone the old-fashioned way, according to the study.

The bottom line is that driver’s need to be paying attention to the road, not their cell phones, when they are behind the will. It demands your full attention. There’s too much at stake to do otherwise.