Volume 47, Number 5 - October 19, 2009

About the Reporter

Jeannie Rodriguez
Jeannie Rodriguez

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Opinion Opinion

Person texting while driving

Friends Don’t Let Friends Text and Drive

By Jeannie Rodriguez

It has been called the national “epidemic.”

Today, the same amount of thought is put into text messaging behind the wheel as children think about eating a bag of candy.

Whether you use the “one handed glance” technique or the “two-thumb-typing knee guider” method or if you’re like me, the “only-at-red-light responder,” the majority of drivers are guilty of this offense: text messaging while driving. With the rise in technology and instant communication, it’s not surprising to find that we can’t seem to spare a few minutes away from our cell phones.

Last year, 5,870 people were killed in car accidents where at least one driver was distracted, according to a recent article in the Miami Herald. Because of these outrageous numbers, 18 states including the District of Colombia have made text messaging while driving illegal, Florida not being one of them.

But what does “distracted” really mean?

Texting isn’t the only thing distracting drivers on the road. Changing the radio station,  reading a map, using the GPS, or even eating while driving can all divert a driver’s attention.  It would be impossible to outlaw everything that could distract someone. Essentially, responsibility has to be put on the driver as we trust them to make wise decisions, because lets face it, even those hand-free headsets do more damage than not.

Virginia Technical Transportation Institute conducted a study that found the likelihood of being in an accident while text messaging is 23 times greater compared to talking on the phone or having a .08 blood-alcohol level.

A similar study done by the Transport Research Laboratory in the United Kingdom discovered that driver reaction time is slowed by 35% while text messaging compared to 21 % if a driver is smoking marijuana.

It’s safe to say  that so called “texters” spend at least five seconds looking at their device while driving, enough to cover 100 yards on a highway.

Yes, risky. We get it.

But if we know it’s so dangerous, then why do we continue doing it?

Maybe it’s the thrill of the danger?

Or a lack of patience?

We’ve made ourselves believe that the risk is low. We can get away with it 100 times by making these so called “good choices,” like only glancing at the phone for a second. But the truth is drivers won’t be ready for the unexpected while on the road. It’s a matter of chance, and it’ll catch up with us eventually.

Even if Florida does decide to ban text messaging while behind the wheel, the majority of drivers will continue to do it. The same way speeding is illegal, most drivers continue to drive above the speed limit anyway, even if they have received a speeding ticket.

It’s not until our luck runs out and we’re faced with a life-threatening situation that we’ll consider calling it quits.

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