by Joel Haber
Filed Under: Text Etiquette
e've all done it. We've been casual about it - perhaps while talking to a spouse or a friend. We've been frantic about it - perhaps while arguing or trying to figure out last-minute logistics.
Whatever the situation, we all have texted, emailed, or talked on our mobile phones while driving.
Driving in general requires complete attention. We often forget that when we're driving, we're commanding an object that weighs several thousand pounds at speeds of up to 70 and sometimes faster. This is an extraordinary amount of power, and that's why car crashes can be so destructive.
Because the inside of cars become comfortable, like the inside of our homes, we get lulled into thinking that we can multitask. But we can't, especially when it comes to texting. Texting forces us to take our attention away from the road and to our mobile phone. In a split second, this lack of focus can result in you hitting another car or pedestrian.
For teens, texting and driving is an even more pronounced problem. First, kids text more than adults. Texting is the preferred mode of communication for most adolescents and teens, and so they're on their phones typing texts feverishly more often than not. Second, teens inherently are novices when it comes to driving. They especially need to focus on the road to compensate for any lack of driving skill or experience. A momentary lack of concentration to send or read a text could result in catastrophe.
Third, teens can literally be driven to distraction. If a teen is caught up in a dramatic or tense texting conversation, it could be too enticing to focus on his or her mobile phone instead of the road and surrounding cars. As many of us know, the chime of an incoming text message gets our attention, no matter what we're doing. The problem is, when driving, that one moment away from the road can be a tragic mistake.
In fact, the U.S. government's official web site on distracted driving, www.distraction.gov, cites multiple statistics on the dangers of this careless behavior:
Using a mobile phone use while driving, whether it's hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent.
Driving while using a mobile phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.
The worst offenders are the youngest and least-experienced drivers: men and women under 20 years of age.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Another web site, www.focusdriven.org ,presents the following information:
An insurance company's public opinion poll showed 81 percent of the public admitted to talking on a cell phone while driving.
NHTSA estimates that 11 percent of drivers at any point during the day are talking on cell phones while driving.
A Real Problem, With Real Tragedies
Texting and driving already has claimed the lives of several people across the country. In Los Angeles in 2008, a commuter train conductor was texting when he ran through a red light. The train collided with a freight train, injuring 135 people and killing 24, including the conductor. The incident was one of the worst commuter train crashes in U.S. history.
In Marion County, Florida, a 30-year-old man was texting while driving and crashed into the back of a stopped school bus, pushing it more than 200 feet forward. The bus burst into flames and one 13-year-old girl, Frances Schee, was trapped and burned to death
In 2006 in Utah, a 19-year-old was texting when he drove his SUV into oncoming traffic and nicked another car, which then careened into other oncoming cars. The driver of the other car was killed instantly.
Thousands of people are affected every year by the reckless behavior of texting and mobile phone use while driving. Almost 6,000 people are killed and 500,000 people are injured annually because someone was texting, emailing, or talking on a mobile phone while driving.
Awareness of this problem, however, is spreading. Nineteen states plus the District of Columbia have outlawed texting while driving, and in several other states drivers cannot use mobile phones unless they are on a hands-free system. These are significant steps towards mitigating this epidemic.
Safety On the Road Starts At Home
Once we realize the dangers of texting and driving and hear the associated horror stories, it becomes a little easier to communicate the seriousness of the issue to our teenage children. More important than any case we present to them, however, is our own behavior. Set the right example, and don’t text and drive yourself. You need to show them that your mobile phone is off when driving.
If our teenagers see that we adhere to the "No Texting and Driving" rule, they are more likely to do the same. This also goes for emailing and talking on a mobile phone while driving. Moreover, beyond providing a paradigm of responsible behavior for our kids, we create safer driving environments when we don't text and drive.
If you take a ride with your teen or young adult and watch what they do when they get a text, you'll understand firsthand what they do when they hear that sound of a text coming in. Watch to see if they take their eye off the road, if they read the text and even answer it. Tell them in a clear, non-angry tone to pull the car over and put it into park when you can explain the dangers of what just happened. Tell them that they need another plan: to turn their phone off while driving so they will not get distracted.
Understanding the hazards of texting and driving is a crucial part of a teenager's education on mobile phone usage. I implore you to convey to them how serious this situation is, and to ensure that they are focused on the road and not texting while driving. Such awareness could save their lives and the lives of others.
Filed Under: Text Etiquette