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Article posted: 1/1/2012 5:00 AM

A distracted-driving resolution to frame near the door

By

Today is a perfect day to declare a personal war on distracted driving.

We've written in this space for the past week about the dangers inherent in distracted driving. Those dangers have been too well documented. In solving this growing problem, our legislatures, our police, our schools and our business community all have roles to play. We hope they take those roles seriously and respond aggressively and decisively.

But ultimately, this is about each of us. It is about our obligations to family and friends, to others on the road and to ourselves.

The sad truth is that most of us take our driving for granted, make assumptions about our safety that aren't altogether accurate, take little risks that we often don't even realize we're taking.

We head out the door, keys in hand, preoccupied with last night's argument or this morning's appointment. We may be running late, we may be frustrated with the kids, we may be exhilarated about a lunch date.

Truth be told, when we get behind the wheel, the last thing we're usually thinking about is our driving.

We assume that we're going to safely make it to the office or the school or the store or the restaurant or the friend's house or wherever it is we're going. We assume that's the case because we've always made it safely there before.

But if you stop and think about it, that's the same innocent assumption a drunken driver makes, and there's nothing innocent about it.

We're all -- each of us -- one momentary mistake away from tragedy.

Each of us could use a refresher defensive driving class from time to time -- and not just as a way to keep a traffic ticket off our records.

Fundamentally, a defensive driver is constantly observing the surroundings, constantly on the alert for the other guy, constantly watching for the mistakes that someone else might make.

Back when we first took our driving courses as teenagers, most of us told ourselves that's the kind of driver we were going to be.

But between then and now, life and self-confidence have gotten in the way.

Granted, some of those defensive driving skills have become rote. But some of our ability to avoid tragedy on the road has been pure luck.

If we are playing with the phone while we're driving -- even if it's when we're stopped at the light, even if it's talking hands free -- we are not defensive drivers; we are accidents waiting to happen.

Today is a perfect day to declare a personal war on distracted driving.

Make this one of your new year's resolutions:

I'm putting the phone in the glove compartment where I won't be tempted to use it while driving and where it wouldn't be a lethal missile if I were to be involved in an accident. I will not talk on the phone or text while driving, and I will be a vocal advocate to all I know, and especially to those I care about, for the war on distracted driving.

Stick that resolution near the door. Pause to read it each time you leave to get into your car.

Happy new year to you and your family.

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