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Home editor's blog on driving & drivers Texting drivers are as bad as drunk drivers

Texting drivers are as bad as drunk drivers

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It's a bit hard to see but this driver is texting and driving while going about 65 mph on I-225 South in Aurora, Colo. I shot this photo from inside a Denver RTD bus, which gives one a great -- and also scary -- ability to see just how many people are texting/surfing while driving. [Photo by Christof Demont-Heinrich]

editors-blog-entry3I can’t think of a single thing that gets me more hot under the collar than selfish, short-sighted drivers who spend more of their time texting and surfing the internet than concentrating on driving and who, in increasing numbers, are killing themselves, and, worse, others as a result of their stupidity.

And, no, I don’t care if you are driving a solar-charged EV when you’re texting/surfing: Your actions are every bit as dangerous and inexcusable as those of the texting/surfing driver in a gasoline car!

Poll: Texting drivers

Should texting/surfing drivers who kill and/or injure others receive the same stiff sentences drunk drivers do?
 

Texting drivers everywhere
Everywhere I look I see texting/surfing drivers. I can’t go on a car trip anywhere in the Denver area without seeing at least several people who are intently texting/surfing while driving.

In fact, I’m sure if I had an SUV/pick-up truck that put me higher up with a better view of others (I’m sitting pretty low in our 1992 Acura Integra ;-), I’d see even more. In fact, I’ve never seen as many texting/surfing drivers as I did while I was riding in a Denver RTD airport bus to Denver International Airport recently.

Texting/surfing, and yes, yapping on the phone while driving, is a very serious problem. According to a recent CBSNews.Com story about a motorcyclist couple, each of whom lost a leg in an accident in which a texting driver hit them head on, 24 percent of vehicle crashes in the U.S. can be attributed to phone use while driving.

Distracted driving kills thousands in U.S.
More broadly, according to the U.S. government web site, Distraction.Gov, in 2010, 3,092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and an additional 416,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

And, by the way, texting/surfing while driving is NOT analogous to people doing their makeup or stuffing their face with a Big Mac when driving. Not when you’re talking about an activity drivers repeat, some hundreds of times per day, as opposed to a one-time application of make-up, or a one-time stuff-your-face session.

There’s nothing like prison time to make people reconsider dangerous, selfish behaviors. Every single texting/surfing driver who kills or injures someone due to their individual stupidity and selfishness needs to spend a few years behind bars. Period.

Texting/surfing while driving is a quantitatively different phenomenon than eating/applying make-up while driving etc. It happens far more often and is done by more individual drivers with far more frequency on any given day than any other “distracted driving” activity.

Check out stats from this recent, solid study from the highly reputable Pew Internet & American Life Project, which shows that, on average, Americans send and receive 40 texts per day; those in the 18- to 29-year-old category send and receive 88 texts each day. And here’s another impressive total: 7 trillion texts are expected to be sent and received worldwide in 2011.

39 states w/texting & driving ban
Unfortunately, as serious a problem as the texting/surfing while driving phenomenon is -- if you don’t think it’s serious, talk to someone who’s lost a friend or relative to this epidemic -- it’s not being taken nearly seriously enough. Yes, 39 states now have anti-texting while driving laws on the books and 32 ban cell phone use for novice drivers.

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The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) apparently prefers to leave its numerous highway message boards idle rather than to use them to publicize that it is illegal to text and drive in Colorado. [Photo shot from passenger seat of our car by Christine Demont-Heinrich]

But there’s little to no enforcement and little to no effort on the part of state government to promote awareness of laws against texting/surfing while driving. This is true, at least where I live, Colorado.

For instance, only once in the two years in which Colorado has had no-texting while driving law have I seen the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) use a flashing message board above a major highway to advertise the fact that it is against the law to text and drive in Colorado – and this on only one of the four such boards I drive past on the way to work.

In that same time, I’ve seen countless messages on the same CDOT electronic giant message boards admonishing people not to drink and drive. You know, the whole advertising of the “Heat is on DUI” campaigns.

The same outcome as a result of shortsighted/selfish/idiotic behavior deserves the same harsh result: You kill someone while texting/surfing and driving, you spend years behind bars, the same as the drunk driver who kills someone.

Texting/surfing while driving creates the same results and drunk driving: Innocent people die and are horribly injured. Indeed, text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted.

Yet it’s clear our society views and treats the texting/surfing driver differently than the drunk driver. THIS MUST CHANGE!

Prison time for texting drivers who kill
The same outcome as a result of shortsighted/selfish/idiotic behavior deserves the same harsh result: You kill someone while texting/surfing and driving, you spend years behind bars, the same as the drunk driver who kills someone.

Unfortunately, we’re not to that point – not even close, as this maddening case in Kansas in which a teen driver got five years probation for killing someone while texting and driving, shows.

We need more stiffer sentences like this one, in which a texting teen who killed another driver was sentenced to a full year in prison and lost his driver’s license for 15 years.

There’s nothing like prison time to make people reconsider dangerous, selfish behaviors. Every single texting/surfing driver who kills or injures someone due to their individual stupidity and selfishness needs to spend a few years behind bars. Period.

Short of laws that ban cell phones in cars completely – which I support but which I recognize will never pass in the United States, or fully computer-driven cars, whose time can’t come soon enough -- serious prison time for texting/surfing drivers who kill and/or injure is the best way, probably the only realistic way, to seriously reduce what is a very serious problem in America today.

Additional resources/reading -->

--> Don’t Text and Drive Facebook Page

--> Distraction.Gov

--> Driving while intexticated

--> Massachusetts teen convicted of homicide in texting-while-driving case

DWI: Driving While Intexticated
Courtesy of: Online Schools
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