Impaired, distracted driving must stop
Tragic deaths and heartache for families of the victims could have been prevented
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By Dave Williams  March 21, 2014 12:00 am

It’s a simple question yet one that likely will never be answered, but here goes. How many more people are going to die before people finally get it through their heads to keep their focus completely on the road when operating an automobile?

The consequences of distracted driving – including drunk driving or driving under the influence of a controlled substance – were brought home in the most painful way possible the past couple of weeks.

Last weekend, Santa Rosa’s Jay Hufford suffered unspeakably horrific losses when his wife Sue, 53, and mother Sharon Hufford, 74, were killed in a car crash on Highway 12 near Farmer’s Lane in Santa Rosa. His father Donald, 74, remains in serious condition at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

Jay and his father were riding in the front seat while his wife and mother were in the back when it was completely caved in when a pickup truck smashed into his Toyota Camry.

The driver, Rohnert Park’s Nicholas Lee Tognozzi, 30, told police officers he had looked down at his mobile phone to check a text message at the time of the collision. His pickup was traveling at an estimated speed of 55-65 mph, and the Huffords were stopped, waiting for the light to change green when the crash occurred.

Tognozzi was arrested on suspicion of felony gross vehicular manslaughter and felony driving while under the influence of drugs causing death. He was released from Sonoma County Jail after posting bond for $100,000 bail. Tognozzi, an Analy High graduate and who works in Novato, is scheduled to appear in court Friday.

Family and friends on Tuesday said goodbye to their beloved David Joseph Aggio, 54, of Rohnert Park, who was killed on March 8 in a car crash in Bakersfield. Aggio was out for a drive with his wife, who was working in Bakersfield on a temporary basis, when a Honda Civic driven by 22-year-old Rodolfo Contreras reportedly sped through an intersection on a yellow light, struck and jumped a raised medium, crashed into Aggio’s blue Ford Explorer and sheared off the front end.

Bakersfield police suspect Contreras may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Results from a blood test are not yet available.

Another example of what can happen with drunken driving is on the bottom of this page.

Back on Dec. 1, 2010, distracted driving was the cause of another death when Calli Murray, 2, died after being hit while in a crosswalk on Snyder Lane in Rohnert Park. Kaitlyn Dunaway, the driver, also was distracted because she was texting at the time of the accident. Ling Murray, Calli’s mother, is still recovering from her injuries.

Only those who know the people responsible for these tragedies on a personal level can vouch for the content of their character. Those who don’t know them should refrain from the type of character assassination so common on the Internet comment boards. 

Their judgment, however, is fair game. And sadly their judgment was tragically poor because all of these deaths and injuries were preventable.

Understand this. Any time a person gets behind the wheel of an automobile, especially when drunk, he or she is in control of a deadly weapon. Taking the time to check a text while driving can cause a driver to drift out of his lane, which in turn can affect other drivers or those riding in bicycle lanes, which can lead to deadly consequences.

There are several forms of driving while distracted, including constantly changing radio stations, painting fingernails, applying makeup, eating, trying to read a map and, yes, disciplining children in the back seat of the car.

If your nails and makeup don’t look the way you’d like, wait until you reach your destination and then fix them when you’re parked. Eat your food before or after you drive because, besides being distracted, there’s a good chance you’ll spill your food on yourself. If you don’t know where you’re going, pull off the road, read your map and then be on your way.

Finally, let the kids know how much trouble they are in when you get to where you’re going. The important thing is to follow through with the discipline and not just make it an idle threat.

Ridding yourself of driving distractions makes everyone much safer and cuts down on the heartbreak.

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