Melissa Kelson of Turner reached for her cell phone while driving in Auburn Friday, lost control of her car and hit a stone wall. She walked away from the wreck without injury.

Heather Bouchard of Yarmouth reached for her cell phone while driving in Cumberland last month, lost control of her car and crashed headlong into a TV satellite truck. She died.

Kelson is 17.

Bouchard was 24.

Parents so often provide their children with cell phones to keep them safe by allowing them to stay in touch. And parents often do warn children not to talk on the phone while driving, not only because it’s illegal for anyone under 18 years, but because it’s just plain dangerous.

Parents don’t, however, always teach safe cell use by example.

How many adults drive while talking on the phone? Talking for not just a few moments to deliver or pick up a quick message, but talking for the duration of the drive? Talking to someone on the phone and tuning out the passengers?

It’s too many for children to ignore and too many for children to understand and learn this behavior is deadly.

Kelson said she wasn’t talking on her phone and is not in the habit of doing that while driving, but was just reaching to grab it after it fell on the floor from the passenger seat.

Bouchard was talking on her cell phone minutes before the crash, but appeared to have dropped it and was attempting to pick it up from the floor when she crashed. She was doing what a lot of busy adults do, making a business call while she was driving. It may seem like an efficient use of time, but the cost of efficiency is not worth the price of Bouchard’s life or the lives of countless others taken by drivers distracted by cell phones.

Both drivers were obeying the law. Kelson is too young to talk on her phone while driving, and she wasn’t. Bouchard was old enough to talk on the phone and drive, and she was. It was distraction, not illegal behavior, that caused both wrecks.

Sunday is Mother’s Day. It’s a day in honor of mothers and, for most households, brings joy and reflection on the mother-child relationship. In some households, like that of Heather Bouchard, the day will bring tremendous sadness and pain.

We have a suggestion for this Mother’s Day that may preserve the happiness of future Mothers’ Days in Maine homes: Parents teach children about cell phone safety by example, don’t lecture them about it.

Drive without picking up the phone. Converse with people in the car. If the phone falls on the floor, leave it there with the road sand and food crumbs until you get where you’re going.

The phone is safe on the floor. Leaning over to pick it up is not.


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