We tolerate a certain amount of risk every time we get behind the wheel of a car or truck, but as a society we make and enforce rules to minimize that risk.

As new hazards are invented, we need to modernize the rules to keep people safer and save lives. The time has come for a complete ban on the use of mobile telephones by drivers — including hands-free devices.

Maine should no longer tolerate preventable deaths caused by distracted drivers.

It is impossible to think about this issue without talking about the crash in West Paris last weekend in which two teenagers died. Police say that the driver, Katrina Lowe, 18, was drinking alcohol and texting at the moment she lost control of her vehicle on Route 219.

A cellphone law alone would not have prevented this crash: Sending and reading text messages, as well as drinking and driving, already are illegal in Maine.

This tragic loss of life, however, calls for all of us to consider the price we pay for accepting this dangerous activity as a social norm.

Maine has been a leader in the recognizing this problem, passing a distracted driving law in 2009. Last year, the Legislature banned texting while driving, which was an important next step. Now, a growing body of research shows that talking on a mobile phone, whether hand-held or hands-free, requires too much of a driver’s attention to be safe.

The National Transportation Safety Board recommends banning all mobile communication device use by drivers, but it will take state Legislatures to pass the laws needed to put that recommendation into action.

Mobile devices are addictive, and, like drug addicts, people “hooked” on their phones make bad choices. Even if it is difficult to enforce, a law sends a strong message that reading, writing or taking a phone call while driving is not acceptable behavior.

There was a time when people thought nothing about driving a car after having a few drinks, but for most people, those days are gone.

Effective multitasking is a myth. Would you want a tooth filled by a dentist who was talking on a cell- phone? Would you learn anything from a teacher who was updating his Facebook during a lecture?

Driving is hard enough without distractions. Maine should take a leadership role on this issue, and ban mobile communications for people when they are driving.

It’s just not worth the risk.

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