I thought Steve Pappas had a good editorial on driving and cell phones in the Times Argus this week (reprinted in the Herald), but there’s another step media outlets can take on this issue.
An editorial is fine, but regular coverage of issues speak louder because they are repetitive. With the state legislature likely to consider a bill outlawing cell phones, texting, etc., behind the wheel, it would be helpful of the reporters covering police would start including that information in their stories about serious accidents. On the story on the fatal accident in Rutland recently, the reporter asked if speed and / or alcohol were factors, but with a very young driver, it seems likely that some use of electronica is more likely to be a cause than alcohol … based on the anecdotal information that a lot of kids drive while texting and even more while on the phone. I for one would be most interested to know if the police were looking at the possibility of phone/text use in the case of the pedestrian fatality, and if not, why not?
Those questions (speed? alcohol?) follow the ground rules, but there are times when newsrooms ought to make the call to either go beyond the routine or to change the routine altogether.
If reporters were to ask in every crash story if the driver was distracted, it would give the public some data to consider while our politicians are deciding whether to crack down on cell phones behind the wheel. The time is right for the state’s media to start following this issue day-to-day on the streets, instead of asking state committee members where they might stand. Sadly, that’s what we too often get for political coverage these days, from all of our outlets.