Drop in distract driving fatalities
THUMBS?UP: Good news on two fronts from our highways: The Transportation Department on Monday said the number of people killed in crashes involving distracted driving dropped 6 percent from 2008 to 2009. The overall number of highway deaths also dropped last year to its lowest level since 1950. While this is good news, distracted driving is still considered an epidemic by the Transportation Department, but it's not just people using their phones. True, the advancement of technology, whether it's talking on a cell or texting, can cause drivers to be more distracted now more than ever, but we should be blaming the drivers, not the technology - they still need to use good judgement. Drivers get distracted in a number of ways, whether it's eating a sandwich while behind the wheel, checking their hair in the review mirror or reading. Yes, people do read while they're driving, and sometimes, it goes beyond maps. Ultimately, it's up to the drivers to not submit to the temptation of checking their phones for a text or chowing down on a burger at 60 mph. Statistics say we're at least getting the message that those texts and that meal can wait. The other bit of good news is a reported significant increase in booster seat use. Since Minnesota's strengthened child passenger safety law became effective July 1, 2009, crash data reveal a significant increase in booster seats - seat lifts that help adult seat belts fit children properly. During 2007-2009, the Department of Public Safety said only 44 percent of booster-age (4-7) children involved in crashes were in booster seats. In the year since the law became effective through June 30 of this year, 59 percent of children in crashes were in boosters - translating to more than 1,000 children in booster seats who suffered no injury.
THUMBS?DOWN: The good news is things are expected to dry out this weekend - meaning there is little rain in the forecast, giving farmers, city workers and homeowners a big break. It's supposed to be nice next week as well, with highs in the lower 70s. But the damage has been done. Wednesday and Thursday's rains will push harvest back even more and has thrown a major wrench into construction projects - big ones, too, like at Tiger Lake, the Marshall library, and road construction around Marshall and in Minneota. There's nothing we can do about it except hope that forecast plays out.