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Stow the phone
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Self absorbed. It’s all about me. I am the center of the universe.

All of these words come to mind when I see today’s endless stream of motorists talking, tweeting, twittering and Face booking while speeding down the boulevard. This recent phenomenon has become epidemic and it’s spreading.

Harsh words?

Certainly, but there are also harsh consequences in lives lost, bodies maimed or injured permanently in traffic accidents caused by those who place their own need to continually use their cell phone before focusing on the task at hand – driving safely and consciously.

In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association estimated 11-percent of drivers on the road were using some type of phone. I live and drive to work and school everyday in Manhattan, Kan. and from the number of phone users I see each day, I’d bet 40-percent are distracted while driving by a phone of some sort in one of their mitts. The other holds a mascara brush, a hamburger, a liter of water or an electronic reading device (Kindle, Nook, etc.) while they steer with their knees.

Recent research at Virginia Tech revealed an almost three-fold increase in the odds of crashing or nearly crashing when dialing a hand-held phone while driving. Risk associated with text messaging may be much higher based on a new study of truck drivers. The main finding here was a 23-fold increase in the odds of crashing, nearly crashing or drifting from a travel lane among truckers who texted while driving.

Whatever happened to conscientious and courteous driver of yesteryear?

How many motorists today continually scan the road and sidewalks in front of them for kids biking or walking down the sidewalk? How about a watchful eye for the elderly couple out on an early morning stroll? Or someone else walking his or her dog?

Such conduct while driving today has become the exception rather than the rule. Did I mention before that driving today is all about me getting where I need to go?

What about laws against such driving habits? Would they help?

The specter of Big Brother riding on your shoulder or the threat of a policeman or highway patrolman pulling you over and writing a ticket isn’t much of a deterrent.

Creating more laws banning cell phone use while driving will not ensure people put them away. The problem is enforcement.

This would mean law enforcement types would have to ticket such offenders – and we’d need more of them to do so. We’d also need more streets because the ones we have would be impassable because of all the parked offenders and enforcement vehicles.

There’s never a phone in my car. Don’t need one. Don’t want one. My car functions the way it was intended to without one. Anyway I need to be ever vigilant looking out for all those motorists who are doing everything else in their cars but driving.

What we need on our streets and highways today are motorists who understand when you crawl behind the wheel, your undivided attention is required.

This means no phone calls, no meals and no makeup.

Just drive.

John Schlageck is a leading commentator on agriculture and rural Kansas. Born and raised on a diversified farm in northwestern Kansas, his writing reflects a lifetime of experience, knowledge and passion.