A broken neck, one leg snapped completely in half, a torn liver, and a broken C6 vertebrae, all caused by one young man’s mistake, texting while driving. Taylor Graham, one of my classmates from my high school was texting while riding his motorcycle. He collided with the rear of a van stopped at a stoplight. There were no skid marks. He didn’t see the van. He never even looked up. Taylor might not walk again because of his decision to text and drive.
To text, or not to text. That is the question that we must ask ourselves every day that we climb behind the wheel of an automobile. Many Americans are making the decision to text while they drive and the consequences are harrowing and severe. The citizens of this country have not listened to the miniscule (but growing) voices that shout, “Don’t text and drive!” And so, many believe we must turn to outside sources to put a stop to this growing epidemic. There are two common arguments for the vaccine to texting and driving in the United States. One side argues that the solution is to outlaw texting and driving. The flipside argues that public awareness campaigns are the only solution. Both sides are focused on proving that their plan of action is correct and the opposing plan is useless and frugal. Stephanie Hanes comments that “While safety researchers agree that texting behind the wheel is dangerous, concern is growing that cellphone laws do not equal safer roads” (par. 5). The public is concerned about finding the sole solution to this problem.
The fact of the matter is that the answer lies somewhere between the two, with an extra bit of personal responsibility thrown in for good measure. Fernando Wilson and Jim Simpson concur stating that “Legislation enacting texting bans should be paired with effective enforcement to deter drivers from the use of handheld devices while driving” (2218). Until these two sides stop bickering and start acting as one entity, we, my fellow Americans, must do this on our own.
The truth about texting and driving is simple and straightforward. According to the Statistics page of textinganddrivingsafety.com, a website created specifically to target audiences from the ages of 16-20 years old who are prone to texting and driving, in 2011, 23% of all car accidents were caused by cell phone usage (Statistics). Over 1/5 of the accidents in the United States are caused by people completely ignoring the road and concentrating on something that is immeasurably less important. To consciously decide to text and drive is insane when you consider the risks. Contemplate the dangerous of the government allowing texting while driving. In a study conducted in Belgium, students were told that in order to pass their driving test they were required to text while driving on a closed course. Their responses ranged from; “If this becomes the law, I’ll stop driving”, “It’s impossible”, “What you’re asking is dangerous”, “People will die”, and “Honestly, I feel like an idiot who can’t drive” (Statistics). Take a moment and imagine how dangerous the roads would be if everyone was allowed to text and drive, visualize the pandemonium.
The examples throughout this blog are all real. I witnessed the incidents or their effects firsthand. These people are my friends. I record these moments not to scare anyone, but to inform them of the scenarios I have witnessed in the past few years. I want to show what can happen to you, to someone you know, or even to me.
It must be understood that this situation is not affecting just teenagers. Andrew Park and his colleagues report in the Ohio Journal of Science that only Three percent of adults reported they refuse to use electronic devices like cell phones while driving (42). The age of the driver makes no difference. Only their perception of the situation. Ben Heliger, a former classmate and student from Lincoln Southwest, was rear ended at a stop sign by a mother driving her high school freshman daughter to school. She told the officer she simply did not see him, the only car on the road, stopped at the only stop sign on the road for a quarter mile in either direction that most students pass everyday on the way to school. There were no skid marks. She claimed that her cell phone was simply, and very conveniently, placed on her leg. She promised the officer she was not using her cellular device. Ben came away unharmed, but his CRV was immobilized permanently.
People sometimes cannot see how bad texting while driving really is. According to Andrew Park in his study of distracted driving, “Reaction times significantly (p < 0.05, N=40) increased from a ST environment (0.51 ± 0.41 sec) without texting to a DT environment (1.22 ± 0.36 sec) with texting” (Park, et al. 43). Two weeks ago, I was riding my Ducati on the streets of Lincoln. I looked in my rear view mirror and noticed a girl texting in her car behind me. We were approaching a green light, which turned yellow, then red. I slowed and came to stop. While looking in the rear view mirror, I see her head down. It is buried in her cell phone. At the last possible second the girl notices traffic has stopped. Her tires scream in pain as she skids her mobile missile to a halt literally less than a yard from my rear tire. The look on her face is the typical “oh Sh**”. I think to myself “she learned a valuable lesson today”. Yet to my dismay, she returned her attention to her phone. As the light changed back to green, her eyes were locked onto her phone like a hunter aiming down his scope. Radley Balko, Senior Writer and Investigative Reporter for the Huffington Post, argues that “although texting and driving is dumb, laws against it are unenforceable” (par 1). The first problem with this theory is that it is false. Brian Pennings, a California State Patrol Officer clearly stated that it is possible for him and other officers to determine if someone is “intextificated” (16). Furthermore, even if a law is completely unenforceable, it still sets a precedent with every single citizen. The law helps tell people that the action is bad, so that people may better understand that what they are doing is viewed by the public as dangerous and wrong.
Kevin Vakilzadian was rear ended heading home from his varsity soccer game. The girl who hit him claimed to the officer she was fiddling with her radio. She later admitted to her friends that she was texting. She never saw Kevin sitting in the turning lane. Needless to say there were absolutely no skid marks on the road. The damage to the frame of Kevin’s Mustang indicates that car that collided with it was traveling 45-50 miles an hour. The driver who smashed into the rear of Kevin’s car executed a movement into a left turn lane, approached a red stop light, and had not slowed any measurable amount. She did not observe his stopped vehicle at all. Because of this young lady’s decision to text and drive, Kevin’s car was destroyed and his neck was hurting several months later at our graduation.
A common statement by avid texting and driving participants is that they are doing it safely. Brain Pennings, a California State Patrol Officer, stated in his report “teens and adults alike often blame others on the road for distracted driving, believing themselves to be the only ones able to multitask behind the wheel” (16). I experienced one of these moments firsthand. As I was coming home from the Michigan versus Nebraska game, I witnessed somebody texting and driving next to me. I shouted out in angst about the dangers of texting and driving in heavy football traffic. Only then did I realize that my hand was also reaching towards my phone to inform a close personal friend of the “clueless idiot” who was texting and driving. I knew, at that moment, the biggest issue with texting and driving. Even though people know the risks, even though they think they understand the dangers, even after just writing two papers on the subject, there is a mindset. The mindset is that “It won’t happen to me”. The psychological idea that in some way we are exempt from those terrifying statistics is incredibly dangerous. I know that I have not fully mastered this issue yet, and my hope and my plea is that everyone will take a look and try to fix this issue, one by one.
No law can change how we act, no public awareness campaign can force us to put down our phones. Together we can make this world a better place. The solution to the texting and driving epidemic, my internet friends, is you and me.
Balko, Radley. “Should Text Messaging While Driving Be Banned? NO.” U.S. News Digital Weekly 9 10 2009: Academic Search Premier. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.
“Statistics” Texting and Driving Safety. Texting Thumb Bands, May 2013. Web. 24 Sept. 2013.
Hanes, Stephanie. “Bans on Texting While Driving Don’t Reduce Crashes, Study Says.” Christian Science Monitor 28 Sept. 2010: n. pag. Print.
Park, Andrew, et al. “The Effects of Text Messaging During Dual-Task Driving Simulation on Cardiovascular and Respiratory Responses and Reaction Time.” Ohio Journal of Science 111.2-5 (2013): 42-44. Print.
Pennings, Brian. “New Approaches to End Texting While Driving.” Professional Safety 1 Sept. 2013: 16. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Sept. 2013.