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State of the Debate
George Pyle
George Pyle has been a newspaper writer in Kansas, Utah, Upstate New York, and now Utah again, for more than 30 years - most of it as an editorial writer and columnist. Now on his second tour of duty on The Salt Lake Tribune Editorial Board, he has also done a stretch as a talk radio host, published a book on the ongoing flaws of U.S.agricultural policy and, in 1998, was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing. His most active bookmarks are Andrew Sullivan, Christopher Hitchens and Tina Brown. And he still thinks the Internet can be used for intelligent conversation and uplifting ideas.

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Editorials: Two reasons to take TRAX ...

Above: Amazing stats re: cell phones.

1) - Draper TRAX: A rite of community passage - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

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... If the private automobile isolates people and enables urban sprawl, light-rail trains pull them back together. Riding a train is, after all, a shared experience. TRAX is a community effort. ...

... In practical terms, the new 3.8-mile extension of the Sandy Line, now known as the Blue Line, into Draper will mean that more people will be able to choose to travel on rail mass transit, which is more efficient and causes less air pollution than private cars.

Of course, it’s also less convenient than driving your own car, but that depends partly on how you use your time and whether you often are caught in rush-hour traffic on I-15 or elsewhere. You can’t read a book or an iPad while you’re driving a car, though some fools try. You can’t do your homework, either.

It was gratifying to read in The Tribune on Tuesday that the federal government had come across with $116 million toward building the Draper extension, or about 60 percent of the project’s cost. Our writer read that, by the way, in the Kindle edition of The Trib while riding the Red Line from the University of Utah to downtown Salt Lake City. ...

2) - Distracted drivers: Ban phoning while driving - Salt Lake Tribune Editorial

Americans love their cell phones and other personal electronic devices. So much, in fact, that many will not acknowledge an inconvenient fact. These devices are a dangerous distraction when people use them while driving. It should be illegal to use them while operating a motor vehicle, except in emergencies.

Enter the National Transportation Safety Board. It recommended this week that states ban the use of PEDs by people behind the wheel. The only exceptions should be emergencies or for devices that are designed "to support the driving task." By that, we assume the NTSB might mean navigational tools such as GPS.

It’s not difficult to understand why the NTSB reached this conclusion. It has to investigate grisly accidents caused by distracted drivers. It was just such a bit of carnage, caused by a driver who was texting, that brought the board to say, in effect, enough is enough. If you go to the NTSB website and read the accounts of mass killings caused by driver distraction attributed to use of electronic devices, you will comprehend the board’s recommendation. That address is ntsb.gov/news/2011/111213.html.

Utah already outlaws texting while driving. But the Legislature has balked at banning use of cell phones for voice communication. The reason, we believe, is that like many other Americans, legislators use their cell phones while they are driving and believe that they can do so safely. Lawmakers also probably aren’t anxious to incur the wrath of PED-loving citizens who will accuse them of big-brotherism.

But the research about distracted driving due to use of electronic communications devices is compelling and irrefutable. It is ironic that Utah has not embraced that research, because some of it comes directly from the University of Utah. ...

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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