Niagara Gazette

February 16, 2014

GLYNN: Texting and cell phone abuse take heavy toll

By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — It’s a familiar scene.

The woman in the supermarket checkout lane was on a cell phone, apparently calling someone about the groceries she was about to buy. No one in the line had a clue what could be so important to make a personal phone call while other customers waited. One irate man reminded the woman that it was inconsiderate to all the others in line.

The woman just ignored him. Finally, he added, “If you don’t know how to end that call, give me the phone and I’ll be glad to step on it.” A harsh solution, for sure, but a reminder how cell phone abuse extends far beyond the expressways and downtown traffic.

Even worse, of course, is the high risk cell phone abusers pose to motorists who abide by the rules of the road, always careful to proceed with caution and common sense. More than once a driver using the phone and distracted for a fleeting moment has been a major factor in a fatal crash. In fact, a recent study based on concrete data shows that drivers on cell phones are four times more likely to have a car accident.

I thought about that statistic recently when I waited at an intersection on Niagara Falls Boulevard for several motorists who had the advance green arrow to turn left. Two of the first three drivers seemed to be using their phones, probably telling someone that they just got the arrow.

One scene witnessed more than a year ago was a woman driver exiting from the Tops Market, Lewiston, smoking in the SUV with a child in a car seat, talking on her cell phone while attempting a left turn into Center Street, a violation that carries a fine and a mark on the license. 

Some stats to consider the next time you’re behind the wheel and decide to text or use the cell:

• Texting while driving makes a driver 23 times more likely to crash.

• Answering a text takes your attention away for about five seconds, enough time to travel the length of a football field.

• Studies show that texting while driving causes a 400 percent increase in time spent with eyes off the road.

• 21 percent of teen drivers involved in fatal accidents were distracted by cell phones.

• Talking on a cell phone can make a young driver’s reaction time as slow as that of a 70-year-old.

• Another national survey found that one in 10 drivers admitted that, at least sometimes, they sent text messages of emails while driving. That’s a scary thought for the countless drivers simply trying to keep their eyes on the road and their thoughts on the safety of others.

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THE FAST LANE: A custom 1998 Road King Harley-Davidson motorcycle donated to Catholic Charities will be auctioned off on eBay with proceeds going to the annual appeal in the eight-county Buffalo Catholic Diocese. This year’s drive has a goal of $10.8 million.

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A BETTER OFFER?: No one’s saying much about it now, but isn’t Nik Wallenda’s plan to spend the entire summer — June 23 to Sept. 1 — at Darien Lake amusement park different from what many Niagara area residents anticipated?

Wallenda and his family, the “Flying Wallendas,” will stage one-hour shows twice daily at the popular theme park in Genesee County. 

Meanwhile, despite all the chatter about Wallenda making a commitment to the City of Niagara Falls, there’s nothing in the works to date.

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SPECIAL SALUTE: Ernest C. Palmer, a Lewiston councilman, said Friday he was resigning from the town board Feb. 21. A highly respected law enforcement officer for many years, Palmer served at various periods as the police superintendent and chief of detectives in the Cataract City. He also was the police chief of Youngstown for a short time.

A native of Niagara Falls, Palmer, 54, was a police officer for nearly three decades. Among his education and training credentials, he is a graduate of the prestigious FBI Academy in Quantico, Va. Today, he’s also a tax specialist, enrolled as an agent with the IRS, and operates his own firm in Lewiston.  

We wish him all the best in his new endeavors.

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TRIVIA QUESTION: The first Women’s Rights Convention was held in what town in July 1848? (Answer Thursday).

Contact Reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.