Vail Daily editorial: Please, folks, stop using your phones while driving

Vail Daily Editorial Board

The young man was headed west out of Gypsum on the frontage road, doggedly driving a good bit slower than the posted speed limit.

When finally passed by a loud motorcycle, the young man, startled, looked up from his phone and then quickly back down to whatever on the device was more important than his own safety and that of other motorists.

It’s likely you’ve seen something like this out on the roads. It’s also likely that there are days you may be that young man, oblivious to anything outside the borders of a device screen. How many of us daily see a driver either wrapped up in conversation or staring into the infinite maw created by unlimited data?

It’s time to stop, friends.

Modern cars are easy to pilot, and self-driving technology is seemingly just around the corner. But, as anyone who has recently taught a teenager to drive can attest, driving is a complicated task. Safe driving, especially at interstate speeds, requires frequent decision making. That requires paying attention.

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A phone conversation on a headset or wireless in-auto device seems little different than a chat with a passenger. But the simple act of holding a phone throws a new level of complexity into the equation. That complexity compounds when looking up a phone number or, heaven forbid, texting or web searching.

Stop it. Folks, you’re piloting a machine that weighs between a few thousand and several thousand pounds, capable of injuring or killing you and those around you.

This isn’t simply opinion.

According to a 2016 New York Times story, highway fatalities in 2015 recorded their largest annual percentage increase in 50 years. This comes after decades of declines in the fatality rate — the number of fatalities per miles driven.

YouTube is full of videos of motorists behaving badly — if spectacularly — thanks to the ability to put live video on the internet. It’s crazy.

The same New York Times story mentions an Oct. 26, 2016, crash in Florida that killed five people. At the time of the crash, a teen passenger in one car was recording a Snapchat video that showed the car going 115 mph.

You’d think we’d know better by now. Phone companies and various government agencies have spent millions in recent years on public service announcements asking people to avoid texting or using the internet while driving.

That message apparently is taking some time to sink in.

So, at the risk of sounding like a bothersome family member: Please, stay off of your phone while driving. If you need to use a headset or Bluetooth for conversations, then that’s far preferable to holding a phone against your ear. And please, please, keep texting, games and other internet use as far away as possible from the driver. If you must, then put the phone in the back seat or trunk.

Aside from staying sober behind the wheel, this is one of the best things you can do to ensure you and other motorists get where they’re going.

The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Krista Driscoll and Business Editor Scott Miller.

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