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Saturday, November 25, 2006

States Take Action Against Reckless Driving

Ten States Pass Laws to Curb Major Causes of Traffic Accidents: Distracted and Aggressive Driving

Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute reported that distracted drivers are three times more susceptible to being involved in an auto accident than drivers who are paying attention to their driving. Distracted driving includes such as actions as eating, talking on a cell phone, or checking on toddlers in the back seat.

Between 2003 and 2005, the state of Georgia logged 60,000 accidents caused by aggressive driving, according to state transportation department spokeswoman Teri Pope. The accidents killed 1,042 deaths and over 37,000 injuries, and accounted for one fifth of auto accident deaths over the three years, said Pope, referring to the Governor's Office of Highway Safety study.

Aggressive driving is described as a combination of unsafe behaviors, such as speeding or tailgating.

For Dana Sears, 32, a teacher from Lula, Florida, drivers who cut the line of waiting traffic on Interstate 985 are daily occurrence. "I don't know if it’s the day in which we live now," she laments, "but it’s a total lack of respect for the people around you and the hazard it creates."

Charlotte Williams, a 53-year-old resident of Flowery Branch, is incensed by impatient drivers who drive around no-passing lines so they can pass vehicles which are moving slowly in order to turn, or who are just driving slowly.

Even after 20 years living in the south, her Massachusetts accent becomes pronounced when she becomes infuriated at these violators. "I’m a safe driver," she says, "but I’m getting to the point where I'm going to be dangerous myself because I'm driving so slow."

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, since July, 10 states have passed legislation intended to curb the accident rates caused by aggressive driving. Georgia is one state, citing drivers who disobey other driving laws with the intent to hurt or harass another person, according to the association’s Web Site.

But often, it' the violation of simple driving rules that anger most safe-driving folks. For example, Hall County school bus driver Linda Lingerfelt is perturbed by drivers who do not stop for her stop sign, or other drivers who race out in front of her bus or tailgate behind it.

Some drivers give her a friendly wave, as if to say, "it's OK." "Well, no it's not OK," she wrote in an email to the Gainesville Times. "We have students as young as five years old who are just learning about riding the bus. This is a new experience for them and sometimes they come running out without thinking to check for traffic or waiting for the bus driver to signal them," she explained.

Other poor driving decisions come down to just plain bad driving. Julie Aaron, 48, of Gainesville, says that it has become commonplace to see drivers traveling at 55 mph in a 45 mph zone on Cleveland Highway.

"I've got to where now I just laugh about it and go on," she said.

Major Jeff Strickland of the Hall Sheriff's Office recommended calling authorities when a driver sees reckless behavior. "Never take the matter into your own hands," Strickland said, "always let law enforcement take the action."

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