Acton Selectmen should hold hearings on Verizon, Dunkin Donuts, pizza places, etc.

There is a serious and potentially dangerous situation in Acton that the Acton Board of Selectmen (BoS) may want to get involved in, and that is the public health hazard of distracted driving.

According to the FCC, distracted driving causes 18% of all fatal crashes and texting while driving increases the risk of a crash 23x. (http://www.fcc.gov/guides/texting-while-driving).

"Texting and driving safety.com" says that texting while driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than drunk driving.

They quoted the National Highway Safety Bureau as comparing it to driving after drinking four beers and said it is the number one driving distraction reported by teen drivers. (http://www.textinganddrivingsafety.com/texting-and-driving-stats/).

So when is the hearing scheduled for the Acton Verizon store to review its business license, increase employee training on safely selling cell phones to patrons, and making sure that teens do not text and drive?

While we know of no specific incident involving an accident related to a driver using a Verizon (or other carrier) phone, I'm sure we've had this issue in Acton since it is a national epidemic. And since the Acton Board of Selectmen feels it is their duty to protect the public by taking away business licenses from local businesses that sell products that could cause an accident, we think in all fairness that they should immediately hold a hearing on the Verizon store. The safest course of action, from a "public safety" point of view, is to close the store and let them appeal that closure to some higher authority.

DUNKIN DONUTS

Distracted driving while texting is a very serious problem, but perhaps no more than drinking hot coffee while driving.

McDonald's was famously sued for millions of dollars because a patron got burned by drinking coffee that was too hot. Now that that public safety hazard has been remedied, it is time to tackle the issue of hot coffee in a moving vehicle.

If you are driving and you spill hot coffee on your lap, chances are you will be distracted and that could cause an accident.

What if you drink the coffee and the lid comes off? What if you drop the coffee? What if the coffee is in your drink-holder and it falls from it because you have to stop suddenly?

All of these possibilities could cause serious bodily damage in an automobile accident, so we suggest that, to be consistent, the Acton Board of Selectmen hold hearings on the licenses of all Dunkin Donuts shops in town. The hearing is perfunctory because their guilt is already obvious, so let's just close them up and they can find some higher authority to appeal to, if they want to bother.

Or perhaps the car dealers in Acton need to be closed down. After all, their car cupholders encourage this reckless behavior. Maybe the Acton PD should be ordered to inspect all new and used car lots for illegal cupholders.

In fact, as you start to think about it, there are numerous hazards for which local Acton businesses could be held accountable for distracted driving. Pizza places, if someone tries to eat and drive. Car radios, if someone turns the dial because they don't like the music playing. The Acton Highway Department, that fails to adequately salt a road in winter. Mother Nature, that makes the earth spin and causes sun glare in the morning and evening.

What about bees that fly into an open window? If you want a definition of distracted driving, look no further. What will the Acton BoS do about this driving hazard? Exterminate all the bees? Send SWAT teams to take out hives in nearby towns whose bees may be illegally crossing the border into Acton?

The Acton Board of Selectmen evidently feels that all road hazards should be mitigated by their actions, because why else would they terminate the license of the Makaha restaurant which called police when they determined someone was too intoxicated to drive? Makaha may have prevented an accident, not caused one.

But since an accident could have happened had not the Makaha taken action, they are guilty, despite any evidence shown that they violated any laws or alcohol-serving standards. It seems pretty obvious that at least a majority of the BoS members had their minds made up even before the hearing began. So they should apply that same standard to all the other businesses in town, right?

So under this new standard, the BoS has its work cut out for the next several years, as it ferrets out all these potential hazards from our roads and closes all the businesses that might sell products or services that could cause either impaired or distracted drivers.

MAKAHA RESTAURANT

There is no doubt that overserving a patron who may be driving is a serious issue, but bars and restaurants that serve alcohol cannot be held responsible for every bad choice that people make.

If a bar or restaurant sees something that isn't right, they should take action. That is their duty. They can't control what people decide to do, how much they drink, what other substances they might be on, or whether an accident has nothing to do with drunk driving but some other distraction.

But if they see something, take action. Don't serve someone too many drinks unless they have a designated driver or will be taking a cab ride home. Call the police if someone is obviously intoxicated or refuses help when needed.

Unless Acton (and every other city and town in the country) wants to force patrons to take breathalyzer tests before every drink, there is simply no way to know if a bar patron has had too much to drink. But there are clues, and we hope that each business serving alcohol takes their responsibilities seriously, notices when patrons might have had too much to drink, and gets the authorities involved when that happens.

It appears that the Makaha did that during the November 23, 2014 incident. The staff noticed a problem and took action.

Think about it. Would anybody in this day and age working in a bar serve a customer who was already clearly intoxicated? Of course not. But that is exactly what the Acton BoS found when they voted 5-0 that an "overservice" violation had occurred. Their vote said that the bartender served alcohol to a patron who was "visibly intoxicated." Other than the delusional members of the BoS, does anybody really think that happened? Seriously?

If in your wildest dreams you imagined that to be the case, then you had to find some solid proof of it before you can convict someone. Solid proof means just that, not conjecture, not imagination, not fantasy.

There was no proof shown during the hearing whatsoever. The only thing that came close was the police stating the patron blew a 0.22 in the station. Clearly the person was inebriated. That doesn't prove he was overserved by the restaurant.

So while no "overserving" was proven, the Makaha did call a cab and then the police to prevent their patron from driving. But even if some patron leaves an establishment and unfortunately causes an accident, it is primarily the responsibility of the driver who is driving impaired, whether that is from drinking, texting, spilled coffee, the radio, sun glare, bees that fly through open windows, or anything else. The bar or restaurant's duty is to watch their patrons and take action if their behavior indicates there is a problem. They aren't mind-readers and they aren't nannies. Their patrons are adults who are old enough to drink and old enough to take responsibility for their irresponsible behavior.

When in America do people get punished for doing the right thing? Or is the new rule that we stop legal businesses from plying their trades because of an irrational fear of harm? If that is the case, it is time to bring all sorts of businesses before the BoS for their turn at punishment.

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