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EDITORIAL: This epidemic has an easy cure

Texting and driving is dangerous.

It’s a simple and universally accepted axiom. Nobody is making the case that we should be doing more things when behind the wheel. Yet somehow, distracted driving continues to be a growing threat on our roadways.

That is why we applaud all efforts to educate and discourage dangerous practices like texting behind the wheel. This week, we report on how Colonie High School Senior Josh Murphy’s work ended up larger-than-life on a local billboard as part of a Lamar Graphics contest through the school’s art department.

Last year, the billboard contest focused on drunken driving, with a “Driving hammered will get you nailed” message. Drunken driving, well know by now, is an inexcusable offense. Yet stealing a glance at a cell phone, fishing for a CD, tapping on the GPS – those are teeny tiny, meaningless infractions, right? Not a big deal.

Well, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration figures 3,331 people died in a crash involving a distracted driver in 2011 (there were 32,367 in total, so 10 percent), and 387,000 were injured. The data also indicate how distracted driving can be dangerous beyond death statistics. A Virginia Tech study concluded the risk of a crash is 23 times worse when someone is texting while driving. Other studies have equated the risk of texting while driving to be right on the level of getting behind the wheel over the limit.

For younger people, the problem is even more dramatic. Car accidents are the No. 1 cause of death among teens, and now a quarter of all car-related deaths in that cohort are traced back to distracted driving.

It sounds like a big deal to us. Our obliviousness towards objects in the road is reaching epidemic levels.

Sadly, it would seem this is likely to get worse before it gets better. High-end autos now commonly feature interfaces that resemble a tablet imbedded in the dashboard, and some cars boast Internet connectivity capabilities that allow for not only on-the-go navigation and streaming online audio, but for Facebook, Twitter, email, weather, news and all the rest of our daily digital detritus to pop right onto the dash.

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