The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

Editorials

April 3, 2014

Killer connection

Last month, the family of 14-year-old Jenna Betti was in mourning after the teenager was stuck and killed by a train in Martinez, Calif.

She was trying to retrieve her cell phone from the track, where she dropped it as the train approached.

Also in March, a Texas man died when he raced back into his burning home to retrieve his cell phone. Rex Benson was 72.

And closer to home, on New Year’s Eve, a man from Reading, Pa., was killed after he was hit by an SUV as he searched in the street for his lost phone. Elias Arismendy was 33.

“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I can’t live with this pain,” said his girlfriend, Erica Diaz.

Our passion — one can even call it our obsession — for our cell phones can obviously go too far. And it’s clear from these random tragedies that our attachment to our phones is multi-generational.

In our office, we have our iPhones and our Androids, so we aren’t suggesting we all swap our smartphones for a home landline.

But there are times and there are places where we should resist the compulsion to be constantly in touch with our friends, our family, or our work.

One of those times is when we’re behind the wheel of a car or truck.

So we’re glad to hear about the campaign to crack down on distracted driving in West Virginia.

“All law enforcement agencies will be participating in this statewide campaign,” Lt. Paul Blume, West Virginia Southern Regional Highway Safety Program coordinator, told The Register-Herald.

“It’s going to be a crackdown on distracted driving with a focus on cell phones while driving.”

Under West Virginia law, a ticket for distracted driving starts with a fine of $100 and can run up to $300 for subsequent violations. At that point, possible points against your driving record can come into play.

Driving while talking, or texting, is just another symptom of our hyper-reliance on being connected via our smartphones at all times.

The real question may be how we’ve allowed technology to trap us like this when it’s supposed to be helping us.

In the end, the distractions of technology, our love affair with the electronic gadget, is about more than a ticket for $100 here, or a ticket for $300 there.

Just ask the Bettis family, or the Bensons, or the Arismendys.

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