Communication breakdown

Having learned to drive a car in Massachusetts, where the only driving regulation against cell phone use applies to bus drivers, it was not long before I learned the consequences of that freedom.This past summer, my dangerous streak was over. I had slipped past the risks of texting while driving one too many times when my clunker rammed the back end of a defenseless sedan. Seconds prior to the accident, I had been foolishly concentrating on reading a text message.A big dose of reality and hundreds of dollars later, I now understand the warnings and horror stories that were drilled into my mind in driving school about cell phone use.Recently, a woman in Britain was sentenced to a 21-month prison term for crashing her car into another driver as a result of a distracting text message. Having killed the victim due to her phone use, the accident was treated as a more serious crime than had a phone not been involved. Two years ago, Britain strengthened its law enforcement against cell phone use while driving and now regards the distraction as a heinous misjudgment, similar in offense to drinking and driving. The average jail term in Britain for crimes related to driving while distracted by a cell phone is four to seven years.Upon learning about this crackdown, I was surprised that the United States has not yet adopted a similar policy nationwide. States such as New York and Maryland have made phone use illegal while driving. However, having come to Vermont from a state lenient about the issue, I was not shocked to discover that Vermont, too, has zero regulation. In the Green Mountain State, it is legal for train conductors and bus and automobile drivers to call, text and completely consume themselves in their phones while driving.In a city teeming with active students and residents, Burlington is the perfect example of a place that would benefit from cell phone regulation. Consider trekking across campus early on a Monday morning. Only half-awake, most students are worried enough about reaching their destination on time, not the cars buzzing about.Unaware of a red light, stop sign or cross walk, distracted drivers could easily strike an unaware pedestrian. It would be terrible for someone to be struck by a car whose driver was too busy checking their phone to pay attention to a stop light. In such a busy place, however, the chance of an accident like this increases. Laws that restrict cell phone use would reduce the number of cell phone-related car accidents.  We shouldn’t wait until someone is dead or in the hospital to realize that driving while texting is dangerous.