Use common sense behind the wheel

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On Monday, the Observer-Reporter ran a front-page feature on Jennie Buchte, a resident of Presbyterian SeniorCare in Washington who has just turned 107, remains spry and retains a sharp memory after having lived over the decades in Alabama, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.


Buchte credits her long life to hard work, faith, a healthy diet and avoiding cigarettes and alcohol. It’s been speculated that more of us will become centenarians like Buchte in the decades ahead thanks to advances in medical science and greater awareness of habits that can contribute to longevity.


There’s one activity, unfortunately, we can guarantee will put your likelihood of making it to 100 or beyond in peril – texting or using a cellphone while driving.


According to findings published in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, more and more of us are sending text messages and talking on a cellphone while driving. This is occurring despite laws forbidding these potentially deadly distractions and public awareness campaigns emphasizing the importance of being fully engaged in operating your vehicle when you’re on the road. Close to 70 percent of Americans aged 18 to 64 admitted to talking on their cellphones while driving, and 30 percent said they had sent text messages. Ileana Arias of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told The New York Times that “if anything, it seems to be getting worse.”


So it bears repeating: Talking on a cellphone and, particularly, sending a text message while you’re driving can be extremely dangerous. In 2010, the National Safety Council estimated that at least 1.6 million crashes each year – roughly 28 percent – were the result of people using cellphones or texting while driving. When you are preoccupied answering your phone or responding to a text message, you not only put your own safety in jeopardy, but also other drivers who are blamelessly going about their business.


This month marks the first anniversary of Pennsylvania’s ban on texting while driving. There is no statewide law on cellphone use, though a patchwork of local ordinances are in place. Though we’d like to see stricter regulations on cellphone use while driving, we also believe motorists should exercise some common sense – short of notification that you’ve won a $150 million Powerball jackpot or a copy of “Hamlet” in Shakespeare’s hand has just been discovered in your grandmother’s attic, there’s no phone call or text message that can’t wait.


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