Why you should stop texting and driving

I am a reformed “intexticated” driver. I was using my cellphone to answer a friend’s question. I veered right, hit a curb and was nearly jolted out of my seat. My heart was pounding because I wasn’t sure at first what I had hit. I pulled over and checked my tire for a flat. I’m lucky a scuff mark on the tire was the worst of it. This close call was enough to cure me forever of texting and driving. Unfortunately, others aren’t so lucky.

New studies show how using a cellphone while driving — especially for texting — is a growing problem for all of us and for teenagers in particular. Researchers at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Ohio found that teenagers who texted while driving doubled or tripled their risk of weaving across the center line into oncoming traffic.

Those with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were even more distracted than other teens, with more weaving and variation in how fast they drove. The research group recommended that teens need to be educated about how texting hurts their driving and that parents must make an effort to curtail the habit. That could be a tough sell, though. Many kids think they are invincible.

The website TextingandDrivingSafety.com reports that 77 percent of young adults are “confident” they can safely text and drive. Fifty-five percent say it’s easy. Reality, however, tells a different story. Distraction.gov, the official government website on distracted driving, calls the practice “a dangerous epidemic on America's roadways.” The number of accidents caused by distracted driving is highest for younger, less experienced drivers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that among drivers ages 15 to 19 who were involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent were distracted by the use of cellphones.

The statistic that really gave me chills is the number of teenagers who die from texting while driving. Researchers at Cohen Children's Medical Center in New Hyde Park, N.Y., estimate it causes more than 3,000 teen deaths and 300,000 injuries annually nationwide. That’s like more than eight teenagers a day who die texting!

So what’s the solution? Graduated driver’s licenses have helped reduce teenage driving fatalities. Others recommend that parents get more involved. First, parents should set an example by not texting and driving — and you know who you are. Seventy-seven percent of teens surveyed said their parents texted while driving. That’s got to stop. Plus it’s illegal to text and drive in more than 40 states. Parents also need to set clear rules about texting and driving and there’s only one rule … don’t do it. Pull over if you have to. 

What’s the rush, after all, to grab the phone the second it dings, chimes or chirps! As the new AT&T slogan says: “It Can Wait.” The alternative may be something you don’t want to imagine.

–Jackie Hays