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Distracted Driving Gets Hazardous

We all know how dangerous texting while driving can be. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 15 people are killed each day by a distracted driver, whether they are texting, eating, or performing some other task as opposed to keeping their eyes on the wheel.

Unless you’re personally affected by one of these tragedies, we often do not think of the magnitude of an accident caused by a distracted driver. If you’re fortunate enough not to have been involved by such a tragedy, you may not listen close enough to the messages conveyed by those who have.

But think for a moment how one person’s split second of poor judgment can affect hundreds, even thousands of lives at once.

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed a rule targeting cell phone usage by commercial drivers hauling hazardous materials. It scares me to think that a rule like this does not already exist.

Two weeks ago, in Mahanoy City, a Fed Ex tractor hauling 2,680 pounds of phosphoric acid leaked onto Interstate 81, closing off a portion of the highway for three hours.

The spill was no fault of the driver, who acted appropriately in the situation. Cleanup was fairly easy and the few individuals that were exposed did not require major medical treatment. The chemical being transported was not particularly hazardous as it was only 5% acid.

However, chemicals with higher concentrations of acid are transported on our highways each day. Think of the repercussions if the driver was texting and lost control drifting two lanes over and hitting a guard rail. Think of the vehicles that would have been hit, as well as the others exposed to the chemicals leaked from the explosion caused by the impact.

While State and Local governments are passing their own bans on using cell phones while driving, that the all drivers must adhere to, it is pertinent that those operation more powerful, commercial vehicles adhere to these rules and exercise the same, if not more caution than the average individual.

Transporting Handling Hazardous materials is something that should be done with caution. Transporting of such chemicals should be done with extra care. While accidental leaks like the incident in Mahanoy may be true accidents and more difficult to prevent, distracted driving is easier to prevent if we have enough regulation and enforcement.

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