In the first two weeks of January, 12 pedestrian died after being struck in car accidents. In one of the accidents, a 9-year-old boy died, and his uncle noted that police informed the family that alcohol was not involved in the collision. Yes, drunk driving remains a significant problem across the U.S. and thousands die every year as a result of drunk drivers.

But drunk driving is not the only problem on the nation’s streets and highways. The pedestrian accident that killed the 9-year-old occurred when the driver of a taxi made a turn and did not see the boy walking with his 6-foot-3 father. They were crossing the street at a marked crosswalk with a green “walk” light.

They may have had the right of way, but that will not relieve the agony of grieving parents, family and friends. The distraction, whatever the cause, which resulted in his death, distracts from the destruction caused.

People become too comfortable in a vehicle, and allow their minds to wander to the radio, their cellphone or eating a sandwich. Would penalties akin to those faced by drunk drivers, help to make drivers improve their driving habits?

It worked with drunk driving, which was once considered “normal,” and fatal accidents were seen as just something that “happened.” The death toll was considered acceptable, because everybody had a few drinks and then drove home. They even had one for the road. It, of course, may have been their last one ever.

If public perception can be changed, with reckless or distracted driving caused by cellphone use or any other reason, is recognized as being as destructive as drinking and driving with a 0.18 BAC, then maybe we can prevent the next 9-year-old from being killed while crossing a street.

Source: New York Times, “Treat Reckless Driving Like Drunk Driving,” Barron H Lerner, January 24, 2014