We all know - or at least should know - that driving while texting on a cellphone is not only illegal but dangerous beyond belief.
Now, though, comes a study by the Governors Highway Safety Association that a growing number of pedestrians are being injured by tripping over items, walking into the path of vehicles and stumbling over their own feet while texting.
"We are where we were with cellphone use in cars 10 years or so ago. We knew it was a problem, but we didn't have the data," Jonathan Akins, deputy executive director of the Governors Highway Safety Association, which represents state highway safety offices, was quoted by the AP as saying.
Some state officials are trying to figure out a way to respond to the apparently growing problem. In the state of Delaware, highway officials have opted for an education program whereby decals are placed on sidewalks and crosswalks advising pedestrians to "Look up. Drivers aren't always looking out for you."
State and local officials are struggling to figure out how to respond, and in some cases asking how far government should go in trying to protect people from themselves.
In Delaware, highway safety officials opted for a public education campaign, placing decals on crosswalks and sidewalks at busy intersections urging pedestrians to "Look up. Drivers aren't always looking out for you."
Officials in Philadelphia are urging pedestrians to "pick your head up."
In Utah the transit authority adopted an ordinance making it a $50 fine for pedestrians using cellphones or other electronic devices while crossing rail tracks in Salt Lake City.
According to an AP story, a University of Maryland study found 116 cases over six years in which pedestrians were killed or seriously injured while wearing headphones. In two-thirds of the cases the victims were men under age 30. Half the cases involved trains. In a third of the incidents, a warning horn was sounded just before the accident.
As unbelievable as it may seem the AP reported about 1,152 people were treated in U.S. emergency rooms last year for injuries suffered while walking and using a cellphone or other electronic device, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, which receives annual data from 100 emergency rooms and using the information for a national estimate.
Of course, it's also supposed to be illegal to talk on a handheld cellphone while driving, but that didn't stop a Parkersburg police officer Monday evening from buzzing down the road talking away, nor did it stop a West Virginia state trooper from doing likewise while driving through a residential neighborhood in an unmarked SUV. Hmmm?
* * *
Apparently some members of the Wood County Board of Education need a refresher course on what cannot be discussed outside the public meeting of the board.
The News and Sentinel had to object-again-about a quorum of board members Tuesday night discussing how to change the authority of the superintendent. The discussion was conducted during their get-together before the board meeting opened.
One board member immediately responded he was writing a note to his fellow officials about their not being permitted to discuss board business outside a public meeting, which left me wondering why he didn't just verbally object to the discussion, chide his fellows and walk away.
Another board member commented the members were "just talking," which exactly is the point. They were discussing business that should have been in the public arena, not merely discussed among themselves.
Unfortunately, Open Meeting law gives government bodies plenty of loopholes to do public business behind closed doors, but elected officials need to remember they "serve" the public, are responsible to the public, depend upon the public for the funding to conduct public business and the public, in general, is suspicious of all government agencies, especially ones that conduct public business in secret.
Contact Jim Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org.