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Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road

Dr. Delay Navigating South Pinellas

By LORRIE LYKINS, Times Correspondent
Published October 21, 2007


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Have you noticed more drivers' attention glued to their handheld electronics rather than the road lately? The Doc has always been a foe of cell-phone chatting while driving, and text messaging is even more distracting than chatting.

It would be ridiculous to argue that text messaging while driving is okay, but plenty of folks seem to think that driving while intoxicated is okay, too.

The number of motorists pecking away at the tiny little letters on their cell phones and BlackBerries is becoming a significant safety threat on the road.

Media attention has zeroed in on the state of Washington, which in May passed a ban on texting while driving that will go into effect in January. Violators will be subject to fines that start at $100 and even risk confiscation of their cell phones. I wish Florida would follow suit.

A 2006 study conducted by Liberty Mutual Research Institute for Safety and Students Against Destructive Decisions SADD found that 80 percent of traffic accidents and 65 percent of near crashes are caused by distractions.

Anyone who knows a teen driver knows that texting, cell phone use or fiddling with other electronic devices while driving is a temptation they often can't resist.

Driving distractions

Passengers often cause careless driving

Texting isn't the only distraction that can lead to tragedy.

Sgt. Jim Bordner of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office says the most significant source of distraction to any driver is passengers.

"Any time a driver has passengers, it's a potential traffic safety issue, especially when you have a car full of teenagers, parents dealing with their kids, couples engaging in domestic squabbling. Those sorts of things can lead to tragedy," Bordner said.

Florida doesn't have laws addressing such distractions specifically. Bordner says that some crash scene investigations have shown evidence of cell phone use at the time of the crash. Motorists can be cited for careless driving if law officers observe them operating a vehicle inattentively.

Public meeting

County official will offer project updates

If you're interested in what's happening with some major road projects around the county, drop by the Seminole Community Library on Thursday evening.

Assistant County Administrator Pete Yauch will offer updates on projects including plans for 102nd Avenue, Starkey Road, Bryan Dairy Road and the 118th Avenue overpass at U.S. 19.

The public can ask questions and comment. The event is hosted by the Unincorporated Seminole Community Association (USEM-CA).

When: 7 p.m. Thursday.

Where: Seminole Community Library, 9200 113th St., Seminole.

Sunguide center

Traffic management system to alert drivers

The FDOT officially opened the new Tampa Bay SunGuide Traffic Management Center in Tampa last week, and officials say the state-of-the-art facility will alert drivers to traffic and road conditions and broadcast Amber Alerts.

The new center on N McKinley Drive will control the large signs that span the interstate system.

Operators monitor and control closed-circuit television cameras, dynamic message signs, traffic detectors, the 511 traffic information line and the Road Rangers.

Until next week, happy and safe motoring!

Please share your traffic concerns, comments and questions with Dr. Delay via e-mail at docdelay@yahoo.com.

[Last modified October 20, 2007, 22:51:50]


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