Distracted driving has always been a problem.
Over the years, it has been the cause of countless accidents and resulted in all too many deaths on the highways.
Most motorists at one time or another -- or frequently -- have been guilty of engaging in one or more distractions while driving, ranging from eating, drinking or grooming to talking, checking out a map or changing a radio station or CD.
In recent years, another dangerous distraction has become all too commonplace: the use of a cellphone.
And now, the growing popularity of texting while driving has made the highways more unsafe.
Connecticut lawmakers are well aware of the dangers of distracted driving and, in particular, the carnage that can occur if motorists use hand-held cell phones or send or receive text messages while behind the wheel.
There is a push in Hartford to strengthen the state's distracted driving laws, with a specific emphasis on increasing the fines for those who violate the law.
We support that effort and encourage our elected officials to enact legislation with real teeth, so the penalty for talking on a hand-held cellphone or texting while driving becomes a strong deterrent.
Connecticut has acted appropriately in recent years to crack down on drunken driving, making the laws more stringent and the penalties more severe.
It needs to do the same for distracted driving, which in some cases can be just as dangerous as drunken driving.
For example, studies show it takes an average of 4.6 seconds to send or receive a text message. A motorist cruising along at 55 miles per hour would travel about 100 yards -- the length of a football field -- without looking at the highway.
No responsible driver would close his or her eyes for 4.6 seconds while heading down the road. Likewise, looking at a text message for that length of time is not safe, and it should not be legal.
More than 3,000 people a year are killed in distracted-driving crashes in this country, and the use of cell phones is a major contributor.
Kenneth Dorsey, a 44-year-old Norwalk man, was killed while jogging last spring by a New Canaan teenager who was looking at her high school website -- instead of the road. The teenager, now 17, was given a suspended sentence under a youthful offender program.
Mr. Dorsey's girlfriend, Dawn Jeffrey, issued a plea to legislators earlier this week to strengthen the state's distracted driving laws and institute more severe penalties for those who ignore the law.
We hope the lawmakers heard her message loud and clear and act accordingly.
We also call on state and local police to do a much better job of cracking down on those who use their cell phones for calls or texting while behind the wheel.
Tougher laws and more aggressive enforcement will make Connecticut's highways safer.