Editorial: Eyes on the road

Driving issues figure prominently this week, with distracted driving and running stop signs front and center.
Let’s take the issue of stop signs first. A few months ago a sizable vehicle — a Honda CRV — was pushed into Horseshoe Pond by a car that apparently failed to stop at a stop sign. Today a letter describes frequent stop-sign avoiders in Wilton Center. A comment sent to The Bulletin says the four-way stop at New Canaan Road and Belden Hill Road is ineffective, causing traffic to back up substantially during rush hour. This only encourages drivers to get through more quickly by failing to yield the right of way.
Anyone who drives defensively knows running — or more commonly, gliding — through stop signs happens frequently. People slow down, glance around, and motor on through. When it’s a two-, three-, or four-way stop, it’s all too common for one driver to take advantage of the others and not wait their turn. If one of the other drivers is equally impatient, this can lead to disaster.
Also of great concern are the distracted drivers. Distracted driving can be deadly.
We like to blame distracted driving on texting, and literally billions of text messages are sent each month in this country, but this is not the only form of distracted driving. Using a cell phone or smartphone, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, reading, using a GPS, watching a video, adjusting a radio or CD player, and personal grooming are other typical forms of distraction.
According to Distraction.gov, the official U.S. government website for distracted driving, 3,154 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2013, and about 424,000 were injured.
Handheld cell phone use under any circumstances while driving is illegal in Connecticut. In just one week of stepped-up enforcement, Wilton police made 56 stops for improper cell phone use. These stops were only for cell phones; they did not include other forms of distracted driving.
On a busy road like Route 7, it only takes an instant for an accident to occur. This was the case of an accident that totaled a Dial-A-Ride bus just a few weeks ago. (See story on page 1A.) Quiet roads are no better. Wilton roads have many twists and turns. Animal encounters are frequent. Bicyclists, runners and children playing are all “hazards” to be wary of.
Town officials are rightly putting their foot down to get the state Department of Transportation to improve the Route 7/School Road intersection, but it is incumbent on all of us to be more aware of our surroundings and drive with due caution and attention.