This editorial appeared in the June 23, 2019, edition of the (Champaign) News-Gazette:
The public has been warned for years about the public-safety threat posed by motorists who've consumed too much alcohol.
Well, guess what, there's another major problem on our roads and highways, one that rivals buzzed or drunk drivers. It's represented by motorists who are distracted because they are texting while behind the wheel.
It seems the public's obsession with constantly handling their cellphones has morphed into a major public health and safety threat.
If drivers aren't talking on their cellphones, they're checking them for messages or sending text messages of their own. How thoughtless, how stupid, how dangerous.
Law enforcement has tried to get a handle on this problem. But the facts of the matter are that there are too many motorists using their cellphones and not enough police to catch them doing it.
To be effective, real policing is going to have to be the result of self-policing — motorists realizing that the risks — danger to themselves and others — are just not worth the time and trouble it takes to talk on the phone and/or text.
So far, however, self-policing has proved to be a failure. Too many people just can't seem to resist handling their phones while driving, even in the face of regular news reports about accidents, sometimes involving serious injury or death, that result from distracted driving.
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It won't come close to solving this high-tech problem, but the Illinois State Police have come up with an unusual enforcement tactic that might provide a deterrent, however slight.
It's called Trooper in a Truck, a partnership with the Illinois Trucking Association.
The state police put a trooper in the cabs of semitrailer trucks, where the extra height allows them a better view of what people are doing behind the wheel.
When troopers spot violations, they contact nearby police units that make the stop. Of course, enforcement doesn't focus solely on distracted driving because unsafe driving covers a wide array of activities.
Suffice it to say, motorists who receive traffic citations aren't happy about it. But society has a right not to be happy with those motorists who ignore the law as well as the rules of common sense regarding driving and cellphone use.
How hard is it really to pull over and talk on the phone or send a text?
Cellphones seem to have a peculiar impact on people, almost speeding up their pattern of life to the point where they feel compelled to be constantly checking their phones, taking calls or exchanging texts.
It's just not that important. Too many motorists, however, believe otherwise. So driving will remain even more risky than it otherwise ought to be, and that risk comes in a variety of forms.