People love to text – there is no disputing it. Our thumbs are now our links to constant communication, but at what point do we agree that enough is enough? Texting and driving is an issue that has obtained a lot of attention lately as a plague over our nation. According to the New York Times, the United States Department of Transportation released a report citing 5,474 deaths related to driving while distracted in 2009 and 448,000 injuries.
Though texting clearly does not constitute all distracted driving, it is an important piece, one that should be extinguished for the sake of safety. The New York Times states in the same article, “mobile phones were cited as a distraction in crashes that led to 995 deaths and 24,000 injuries.”
The obvious point is that drivers were never meant to be multitasking behind the wheel. This includes getting dressed, putting on makeup and eating your lunch. But taking both hands off the wheel for the sake of replying to a message is just illogical. If cars were meant to be driven with no hands and no attention, they would just drive themselves.
Texting is easily the most dangerous distraction to driving because a person is entirely removed from the task of safely guiding the vehicle and is instead absorbed in conversation. Many people think this is the same as talking to a passenger. Only, when you are speaking to a passenger you can still have your eyes, and hands, on the road. When you are texting, your hands, eyes and mind are all focusing on one thing: your cell phone. There is no good reason that a law should not be passed banning what is clearly a distraction to drivers and a hazard to everyone.
Some states have caught on and banned texting while driving, 30 of them, according to the Transportation Department. To my disdain, Pennsylvania is not one of them. The House of Representatives passed a law which allowed Pennsylvania police to cite a driver for texting or talking using a mobile phone, according to Philly.com, but Senate made the law into a secondary offense and applicable only to teenage drivers. As a secondary offense, police could not cite them for texting alone.
Pennsylvania is falling behind in securing for its general public a law that is vital to road safety. The New York Times wrote that distractions make up “16 percent of fatal crashes involving drivers under the age of 20, more than in any other age group. However, drivers aged 30 to 39 were most likely to be involved in a fatal crash while distracted by a mobile phone.” For Senate to change the law to only concern teenagers isn’t sensible; teenagers are not the only demographic affected.
Pennsylvania has to follow in the footsteps of other progressive states and ban texting and driving in favor of safer roads for everyone.
The Pennsylvania Turnpike recently launched a safety awareness campaign against texting on the Turnpike. In the Montgomery News, Carl Defebo Jr., media relations manager of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission, said, “ Texting completely removes you from the task of driving, and that’s why the states ban texting and typing because it does involve the highest degree of distraction.” The Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission attributed more than 120 Turnpike accidents to driver distractions, reported the Montgomery News.
It seems people feel that they always have to be connected. I think we cringe if we can’t answer that text, post a new status on Facebook or see what is trending on Twitter, but saving lives is much more important than being constantly updated.
“We’re hooked on our devices, and we can’t put them down, even when it means jeopardizing our own safety and the safety of others,” Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood said in the New York Times.
The frequent texter might state the obvious – legislation does not guarantee people will stop texting or using their cell phones while driving. This is a valid argument; people don’t always follow the law. Some people see laws as guidelines and not enforced rules, but every little bit counts. As more states have outlawed texting while driving, the number of deaths due to distraction has remained a constant 16 percent, instead of increasing, according to CNN.com.
Lahood told USA Today, “Tough laws are the first step and enforcement must be next. We know that anti-distracted-driving laws can be enforced effectively.” The more heavily these laws are enforced, the less likely it is people will continually break them.
The takeaway message is simple: Being alert is essential to driving safely, and texting does not allow for it. It is hard to think of one thing that is so important that you need to text it right away, risking your own life, and the lives of others, in the process. It is safer to just pull over or even to ignore that text until you have reached your destination. If you just can’t bear to be disconnected for a while, go hands-free, but don’t choose a text over a life. Pennsylvania law makers need to grasp this message, sooner rather than later.
Temple Class of 2013