Do You Text and Drive?

text and driving car

A bus full of school children get into a terrible traffic accident in San Antonio. A trolley accident in Boston injures 49 passengers. Two police officers hospitalized after a Missouri man crashes into them. What caused these accidents? Alcohol? No. Drugs? No. The cause of all these accidents was texting!

A new study shows that one in four people text while they drive. The percentage more than doubles (66%) when the age group is narrowed to 18-24. Instant messaging, texting, and tweeting (through Twitter) have achieved enemy status rivaled only by drunk driving. This fun, easy way to send instant messages to friends through the cell phone has become deadly.

This has become such a problem that states have begun outlawing texting while driving. Texting presents a danger because, unlike a phone call, it requires that both the sender and the receiver take their eyes off the road. There are ways to place a phone call and talk on the phone hands-free and without visual distraction. Many states already have laws enforcing hands-free cell phone use. Texting-While-Driving, however, is getting state lawmakers’ attention primarily because of a handful of high profile text-related accidents. At this point, eighteen states have or are currently working on legislation to prohibit texting (including instant messaging and tweeting) while driving.

I have mixed feelings about such specific legislation. While there is no question that this is dangerous, it is so because it’s a distraction. How far are we willing to legislate against specific distractions? Drinking coffee, eating a sandwich, talking to children in the backseat, and having an emotionally draining day also affect driving ability and focus. This list of distracting activities in which drivers participate is endless.

I don’t think we need laws for texting. If someone causes an accident for any reason, whatever the distraction, they should pay the appropriate price. Are there laws against drinking coffee and driving? How about laws against doing hair and make-up and driving? It sounds funny, but at the end of the day lawmakers have to pick and choose which distractions get the warning label. Is it the best they can do? Or is it an ineffective way to placate constituents who are nervous about their teenagers getting into car accidents? If we saw a rash of accidents that got wall-to-wall media coverage and the accidents were caused by Drinking (Coffee) and Driving, I believe there would be an uproar over the issue, including laws against the temperature at which a cup of coffee can be served. It sounds silly. But it’s easier to select a few “vices” than it is to require greater responsibility and concentration on the road. But maybe I’m biased since I text and drive.

Do you think these restrictions are necessary? Should they be expanded beyond texting? Maybe seeing a few people go to jail for TWD (texting while driving) would make a difference? How much can we legislate? How much should we legislate? What do you think?

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