I still shudder when I recall five teenage girls who died in a horrific head-on crash with a tractor-trailer near Rochester, N.Y. in 2007. They were cheerleaders together, had just graduated and were about to party. Cellphone records indicate that the driver’s phone was texting and receiving a text message 38 seconds before the fatal crash.
The issue of texting while driving is so grave that the President of the United States has forbidden federal workers from texting while driving government vehicles. Yet in my state, New York, the lame legislators deemed texting while driving a “secondary offense,” meaning police cannot ticket drivers who text, unless they get them for speeding or another motor vehicle offense.
Only 19 states and the District of Columbia now ban text messaging for all drivers according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. The list can be viewed at http://www.ghsa.org/html/stateinfo/laws/cellphone_laws.html.
We all know that driving distractions are dangerous and life threatening. Texting is now recognized as being as dangerous as drinking and driving.
The proportion of fatalities reportedly associated with driver distraction has grown from 11 percent of fatalities in 2004 to 16 percent in 2008, although the estimated number of injuries associated with crashes has declined according to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration. When we see people reading the newspaper, putting on makeup, eating, drinking talking on the phone and texting behind the wheel, we cringe. We should do more.
The age group with the greatest proportion of distracted drivers according to NHTSA is the under-20 age group — 16 percent of these drivers were reported to have been distracted while driving. And for this group, texting has become a way of life, a second sense, another appendage.
com is a privately held online marketplace for auto lease transfers — they make connections between people who want to give up leases and people who are looking for them. The company polled 3,000 drivers to see what types of distractions drivers considered the most dangerous. Interestingly men and women have completely differing viewpoints on what is distracting.
Men put road rage and temptation for revenge (18.6 percent), checking out other drivers (10.9 percent), kids in car (9.8 percent), other passengers conversations (9.5 percent), reading the paper (9.3 percent) ahead of texting while driving (7.6 percent).
Women put kids in the car (26.3 percent), applying makeup (16.6 percent), messing with the radio (10.4 percent), navigation (9.5 percent), avoiding inclement weather (8.4 percent) and other passengers in the vehicle (7.1 percent) ahead of texting while driving (4.2 percent).
The driving distraction of texting is also generational. A local TV station in Rochester where the five cheerleaders perished posts a video in which teens were asked to navigate a driving course while texting. The teen drivers seemed surprised that they weren’t able to do both — text and drive.
“If the cones had been people,” says Lacaria Cross on the video, “I probably would have killed two people.”
Even though 90 percent of these teens say texting affects their concentration and 80 percent say it should be illegal, they still do it.
Have you driven while distracted? I have. But I cannot fathom sending a text message on a cellphone while operating a vehicle. Unfortunately, I know a lot of young people with their whole lives ahead of them (maybe) who think nothing of it. — by Kate McLeod, Motor Matters
View video of teen text-driving course: (http://www.13wham.com/news/local/story/Texting-While-Driving-Survey-Test-and-Results/Z69oIYm5ZE-37sTwE3BMTg.cspx).
Copyright, Motor Matters, 2009