Texting, driving and pirates

Some numbers that give us reason to think have been released during the past couple of weeks.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol revealed that 273 tickets were given to drivers who were texting or using a cell phone during the first year of the state’s ban on texting while driving.

The law, which went into effect last March, is aimed at keeping distracted drivers from injuring themselves or others.

It carries some steep penalties – a first offense for an adult could result in a fine of $150, while repeat offenders could face a fine of $300.

And those under 18 who chose to talk on the phone, use a hand-held device or text could also face a 60-day license suspension for the first offense and a year-long suspension for a second offense.

So, what do those numbers really mean? It’s tough to know for sure. According to The Associated Press, the state patrol issued about 367,600 speeding tickets during that period. And, like the laws that govern speed limit violations, the anti-texting law is clearly designed to make the roads safer.

What might be more interesting, though, is that of the 273 tickets given to drivers who violated the anti-texting law, 43 went to drivers under the age of 18.

That number, coupled with results from a state health department youth risk survey that showed almost half of teen drivers in Ohio admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving, shows there’s still a lot of work to be done in convincing about the dangers of distracted driving.

Which brings us to a number that does matter – according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, somewhere in the vicinity of 3,000 teenagers die each year in crashes that involve texting and driving.

While it’s easy to chalk those numbers up to what some might consider the inherent recklessness of young people, it could be that adults are not doing a really great job of teaching by example – studies show that somewhere between 50 and 60 percent of adults admit to using their cell phones while behind the wheel.

If nothing else, the numbers are a good place to continue the discussion about removing distractions from drivers – and offer a reason for everyone to think about what they’re doing the next time they get behind the wheel.

Congratulations to Toronto’s Nathan Keenan, who was the champion of this year’s Jefferson-Harrison County Regional Spelling Bee, which was presented by the Herald-Star. By correctly spelling the word “impunity” March 8 at Buckeye North Elementary School in Brilliant, Keenan became the third person to win back-to-back trips to the Scripps National Spelling Bee since our local program was started in 1985.

Meadow Jackson (2008 and 2009) and Frank Zeroski (1996 and 1997) were the others.

Also winning the bee two times were Dharani Kotekal in 2010 and 2012; Derek Gavorcik in 2002 and 2004; and Amy Francy in 1988 and 1990.

Erica Williamson won the bee three straight years, in 1991, 1992 and 1993.

Thanks again to Ron Sismondo and everyone at the Jefferson County Educational Service Center and a committee of dedicated volunteers for making the bee run so smoothly, and sponsors Eastern Gateway Community College, Huntington Bank, the Steubenville Rotary Club, Uniglobe Ohio Valley Travel, Amtrak and the Ohio Lottery for their help.

The national bee will be held May 25-31 in National Harbor, Md., a suburb of Washington, D.C.

And finally our series of podcasts previewing the April 3 appearance of Capt. Richard Phillips continues this week with the second installment of a two-part review of “A Captain’s Duty: Somali Pirates, Navy SEALs and Dangerous Days at Sea.” In the book, Phillips details his ordeal of being held captive by pirates in 2009. It’s the inspiration for the film “Captain Phillips.”

This week’s podcast centers on the portion of the book devoted to the actual time Phillips spent as a captive and how it affected him and his family.

You’ll have the opportunity to hear Phillips tell the story in his own words at 7:30 p.m. April 3 when the Herald-Star, Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Speaker Series continues in the Steubenville High School auditorium. Reserved seat tickets cost $20 each and can be purchased by contacting the Herald-Star or the Chamber.

Copies of the book “A Captain’s Duty” can be purchased for $12 plus tax by contacting the Herald-Star or the Chamber.

Viewers of the podcast will have the chance to take advantage of a special offer involving tickets and the book. You’ll have to watch the podcast to learn all of the details.

It can be accessed by visiting heraldstaronline.com, clicking on the speaker series logo and following the links.

(Gallabrese, a resident of Steubenville, is the executive editor of the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times.)