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Texting while driving remains America’s favorite addiction

By Steven Ivory/Special to the NNPA from the Houston Forward-Times
On July 14, 2014
Texting and driving

Maryland is among several states that have laws against
texting while driving but many drivers still have the bad habit.

While sitting at the light on a backed-up Los Angeles freeway exit ramp one morning, I noticed that one out of every three drivers had their heads tilted into their laps, busily texting, reading a text or dialing a phone number.

This is what we do now. It’s not enough that for years we have been distracted by cell phone conversation. Today, behind the wheels of moving automobiles and using one or both hands, we type out messages and conversations.

You can usually tell when someone is texting or dialing a number while driving. Their faces are usually aimed just below their steering wheel. They’re driving slowly. They weave. Even after the light has changed or traffic has begun moving, they’re still sitting there.

And lots of people do it. The United States Department of Transportation reports that cell phones are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes each year, causing a half million injuries and taking 6,000 lives. Individuals who drive while sending or reading text messages are 23 percent more likely to be involved in a car crash than other drivers. A crash typically happens within an average of three seconds after a driver is distracted.

Despite those figures, people still text and drive.

That this is illegal in many states is not a deterrent. Currently, the fines for being caught doing so are laughable. In California, the cost is between $20 and $50.

I’ve had an idea on cutting down the number of driving texters: have city municipalities create divisions that track people texting in their cars, similar to parking ticket officers. They’d move among the public in unmarked cars of all makes and models, equipped with cameras that can shoot people in the act – or have technology aboard that can detect texting happening in a vehicle.

Using a car’s license number, they send the ticket in the mail with a fine of $1000. The second time you get caught, that fine is doubled, and on and on until you reach ten grand. Get caught after that, your car is impounded, your license is suspended for a year and you go to jail. Texting is dissuaded, and the cities make money.

This method seems very “Big Brother”, but drastic times call for drastic measures. Texting while driving is like waving around a gun in public, and it’s not just teens and young adults doing it. Offenders come in all ages.

In deterring this epidemic, the first thing to understand is that texting and driving have nothing to do with one another. The drunk driver who gets behind the wheel has a problem with drinking, not driving. It’s the same with texting. Incessant texting reflects an addiction to it. Those who text while driving do so because they text while doing everything else.

Remember the good ol’ days, when technology- distraction in your car amounted to finding a good radio station or reloading the cassette or CD player? Now, people kill people while attempting to text “LOL” or “LMFAO.” It can wait, people.

Full disclosure: I’ve texted while driving. Well, tried. More than once. I couldn’t pull it off without the risk of wrecking. And though I do it hands free, I don’t have to talk on the phone while I drive, either. To prove this to myself, I’ve left my phone in my pocket, or put it in my trunk. The first time I did that, it gave me all the calm of transporting a dead body. Now I can do it often without freaking out, which is a good thing.

I’ve got enough problems without adding to them the title of “text whore.”

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