Don’t Endanger Your Friends’ Lives by Texting in Cars

Don Wright/MCT

Grace Hilty

A car full of screaming girls flies down the street singing Lady Gaga with all the windows down. Oh look! The driver’s phone lights up – the text has arrived. What will she do? Follow the law? Debatable.

While some may have the self-restraint to at least wait until a red light, or maybe even the final destination, this driver…not so much.  For all she knows, this could be a text concerning life or death (whether or not Yogurt Shack is still open), or possibly an “LOL” response from the cute boy she’s texting.

She’ll pick up the phone with one hand, struggling to hold the wheel and watch the road while reading and replying to the long awaited text message. She’ll use the “classic” technique entitled “watch the road for three seconds, text for two.” Possibly one or two of the passengers in the car will feel a bit uncomfortable with the driver’s multitasking, but will likely keep quiet.
It seems that new teenage drivers, barely competent behind the wheel at all, let alone with a phone in their hand, would have their minds solely on the road at all times. However, this is not the case.

Most teenagers can barely walk down the hallways and keep a steady conversation going without banging into the occasional pole. Because teenagers lack multi-tasking abilities, they should be the ones paying the most attention to the road, but statistics show otherwise. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the highest number of fatal accidents in 2009 concerning distracted drivers occurred within the 20-and-younger crowd.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety writes, “Drivers who use handheld devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.”

Recently, many states put a ban on drive-texting into effect, but the movement is not nation-wide quite yet. Only 23 states published statistics about the dangers of texting while operating a vehicle in the past year, and an even smaller 19 states have outlawed it altogether. These laws are a step in the right direction, but in the future, they must make their way into every state.

Texting while driving can be placed on the same level as drunken driving in terms of inhibiting a teen’s driving abilities. In 2007, Liberty Mutual Insurance Group conducted a survey in which students from 26 high schools nationwide rated a variety of driving distractions, and text messaging was at the top of the list. Yet even though 37 percent of teens rated text messaging while driving as “extremely” or “very” distracting, they continue to send and receive texts in their moving vehicles anyway.

The most significant problem resulting from drive-texting is that, though illegal, police have a difficult time enforcing the law due to the fact that some teenagers are able to text message while driving without making it obvious to police officers outside of the car. Oftentimes teenagers get away with it because of this. But law-makers aren’t trying to ban teenagers from having freedom or a social life. These laws are in place to protect them from making a life-threatening mistake.

Although the law may not penalize you the next time you text the cute boy back, just don’t do it. It could be your life on the line. So throw the phone to your friends in the back seat and let them read it out loud. (Don’t kid yourself; you would need their help creating a witty reply anyways).