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Let this accident be a wake-up call

December 18, 2010

After police arrested a 20-year-old woman they said was texting on her cell phone when she struck and killed an 80-year-old pedestrian in a crosswalk, the community reaction was, perhaps predictably, scathing.

In a city plagued with pedestrian-vehicle collisions despite the best efforts of public education campaigns, bunny costumes, enforcement stings and university researchers, here we had an alleged violation that seemed to encapsulate the worst and most cliché example of distracted driving — and its most tragic consequence.

Some online commentators were quick to rush to judgment on not the act, but the person and her ancestry — an unfortunate response that showed more about how divided and bigoted this community can be, focused on skin rather than constructive criticism and discourse.

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How many of us have sent a text message, opened an e-mail or engaged in other behaviors while driving that take our full attention off the road — if even for a couple seconds? We might think we'll never be so careless as to allow our multi-tasking cause a collision. But then, no one really does, and yet the pedestrians in Glendale keep getting hit.

If anything, the allegations levied by police investigators against Ani Voskanian, and the death of 80-year-old Misak Ranjbar, should serve as a real-life splash of cold water on our collective face: taking our eyes off the road is all it takes to fail to yield to a stopped car, a stop sign, crosswalk or a child who runs out into the street chasing a ball.

This should be the take-away, not prejudiced indictments painted with a broad brush by people who refuse to see the problems.

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