Safety comes first

Nov. 17, 2009

Eyes straight ahead

While the number of traffic crashes and fatalities in the U.S. were down last year, the proportion of accidents tied to distracted driving is up. So far, 2009 doesn’t seem like much of an improvement.

Eyes straight ahead

While the number of traffic crashes and fatalities in the U.S. were down last year, the proportion of accidents tied to distracted driving is up. So far, 2009 doesn’t seem like much of an improvement.

Case in point, a tow-truck driver in Lockport, N.Y., this past summer was texting on one cell phone while talking on another when he slammed his truck into a car, ricocheted through a fence and sideswiped a house. The flatbed, which happened to be towing a car at the time, finally came to a stop when it rolled into the home’s in-ground pool.

Even stranger, back in February an Ohio motorist called 9-1-1 when he spotted a woman near Dayton breast-feeding a child and talking on a cell phone while driving a minivan.

When the woman pulled over in a school parking lot, the witness confronted her and expressed his concern about her feeding methods. The woman eloquently replied, “You want to breast-feed this kid?”

However, the most dire case of distraction comes from Pennsylvania. In September, a man was so excited that his girlfriend had accepted his marriage proposal that he couldn’t resist leaning in for one more kiss.

Unfortunately, he was driving down Rte. 40 at the time and the momentary distraction was enough to cause his Dodge pickup to crash head-on into a Pontiac G6.

Everyone survived, but the wedding date may have to be pushed back now that the groom has a punctured lung and the bride is sporting a broken nose.

Tennessee hat trick

One arrest turned into three as police pulled off a rare triple play in Jonesborough, Tenn., in September.

It all started when a man driving an off-road motorcycle was pulled over near his home after police noticed that he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

When the driver stopped, police discovered that he also had a helmet-less 18-month-old passenger on the bike with him. (Thankfully he wasn’t trying to breast-feed the child.)

While they were writing the driver up for reckless endangerment, evading arrest and driving on a suspended license, police learned that another man at the motorcyclist’s home was a fugitive from North Carolina, so he was arrested as well.

Then later as the officers were talking to the mother of the baby on the motorcycle, they spotted a third man burglarizing a nearby barn, so they arrested him, too.

Three separate arrests in one location in police lingo that’s referred to as a “triple glaze.”

Give peace and quiet a chance

Ever wonder if those ugly noise barriers that line our highways are actually worth the money? A new study appearing in the journal Environmental Health said that they just might save your life.

The study found that people exposed to high levels of road noise near their homes are more likely to suffer from chronic hypertension.

The lead author of the study, Theo Bodin, from Lund University Hospital, Sweden, wrote in a news release: “We found that exposure above 60 decibels was associated with high blood pressure among the relatively young and middle-aged, an important risk factor for cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.”

The study noted that many urban dwellers experience traffic noise levels of 55 decibels or more, and those numbers are growing.

Those noise barriers are starting to look a lot more attractive now. Is it too late to include more in the health-care reform legislation?

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