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On anniversary of accident, NTSB calls for culture change

Distracted driving has led to countless accidents in recent years. Few were as impactful as the collision between a tour boat and a barge that killed two and put 35 more in the water in Philadelphia one year ago. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is using that accident as part of its campaign to bring national awareness to a behavior that threatens us all.

The driver of the tug that was pushing the barge was in the middle of a family emergency. While piloting the tug through a busy shipping channel, he made 21 calls on his cell phone and used a company laptop to surf the web. Meanwhile, a duck boat was stalled up ahead and had dropped anchor. The deckhand on that boat was also using a cell phone to send text messages. When the two boats collided, 37 people ended up in the water.

The NTSB is afraid that distracted driving is becoming an epidemic. In the recent past, drinking and driving was considered a simple reality on the roads. Police and lawmakers did not consider the issue serious. It took a public awareness campaign and a shift in our culture to shine a light on the damage caused by intoxicated drivers. The NTSB is hoping to begin a similar process regarding distracted driving.

The families of the two passengers who were killed have filed wrongful death lawsuits. While those suits might provide some financial relief, they should also help raise the consciousness of others about distracted driving. It is not uncommon to see a driver weaving on the road while talking on a cell phone or texting. That sight should inspire the same feelings we get when someone drives drunk. The NTSB is hoping that our culture will recognize the danger posed by distracted driving and will act accordingly.

Source: The Associated Press, "NTSB: Culture of driving with phones must change," Maryclaire Dale, 21 June, 2011

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