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Texting behind the wheel? Think before you respond

Natalie Netzel

6 months 25 days 20 hours ago |344 Views | | | Email | Print

Natalie Netzel


I have a confession to make: I have texted and driven. And let me tell you that those few seconds my eyes were off the road was enough to make me not want to do it anymore.


Did you know that for five seconds when your eyes are off the road while texting when traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field, according to the website Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks.


So say you are driving down the highway going just under 70 mph and you get a text and feel the urge to respond. During that time while you try to keep your eyes on your phone and the road, there are other cars moving as fast or faster and before you know it you are slamming on brakes. Perhaps you didn’t hit anybody this time and perhaps you haven’t hurt anybody that second time but life isn’t always so kind.


South Carolina doesn’t have any laws against texting and driving but that doesn’t mean people aren’t for it.


At the Nov. 20 Newberry County Council meeting, Louis Neiger approached council about the dangers of distracted driving. Neiger’s son was killed in a wreck this year in which the other driver was on the phone.


Neiger wants to inform people of what distracted driving can do. In his case, he lost his son.


Perhaps you can put yourself in Neiger’s shoes and imagine if your son, daughter, mother, father, brother or sister was injured or died because of a distracted driver. Of course, the reverse scenario is also devastating.


Neiger is speaking out for his son but how many lives are going to be claimed before you put down the phone and focus on the road?


While it may seem like there are so many laws out there, a law against texting while driving or distracted driving is one that can save lives.


If there’s a law against driving and texting, then that means officers will be on the look out for those doing it. I’m not sure about you, but I’d much rather get a ticket for driving and texting as opposed to killing someone over a text.


South Carolina was recently ranked by an insurance comparison website as number 2 in the nation for bad drivers. We don’t need to add distracted drivers to this mix.


Check out these national statistics about the dangers of texting and driving from the Stop the Texts, Stop the Wrecks website:


— Of those killed in distracted-driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cell phone as a distraction.


— Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s handheld or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (2009, University of Utah)


— 20 percent of injury crashes in 2009 involved reports of distracted driving. (2009, NHTSA)


— In 2009, 5,474 people were killed in U.S. roadways and an estimated additional 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that were reported to have involved distracted driving. (2009, FARS and GES)


— Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (2005, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety)


— 60 percent of drivers use cell phones while driving. (2011, Harris Poll)


— 57 percent of drivers rate themselves as better than the average driver. (2011, Harris Poll)


— An online survey of 1,999 teens ages 16-19 found that 86 percent had driven while distracted even though 84 percent know it’s dangerous. (2010, AAA and Seventeen Magazine)


— 34 percent of teens who drive while distracted simply say they’re used to multi-tasking. (2010, AAA and Seventeen Magazine)


— 32 percent of teens who drive while distracted don’t think anything bad will happen to them. (2010, AAA and Seventeen Magazine)


— 35 percent of teens who drive while distracted don’t think they’ll get hurt. (2010, AAA and Seventeen Magazine)


— 23 is the average number of texts per month that teens who text and drive admit to sending. (2010, AAA and Seventeen Magazine)


— 77 percent of young adult drivers are very/somewhat confident that they can safely text while driving. (Ad Council, 2011)


— 55 percent of young adult drivers agree that it’s easy to text and pay attention to driving at the same time. (Ad Council, 2011)


— 85 percent of respondents who text while driving agree that texting while driving is a problem and 89% recognize that the behavior reduces reaction time. (Ad Council, 2011)


— Brain power used while driving decreases by 40 percent when a driver listens to conversation or music. (2008, Center for Cognitive Brain Imaging at Carnegie Mellon University Study)


— 36 percent of teens say they have been involved in a near-crash because of their own or someone else’s distracted driving. (2010, Pew Research Center)


— While over 90 percent of teen drivers say they don’t drink and drive, 9 out of 10 say they’ve seen passengers distracting the driver, or drivers using cell phones. (2006, National Teen Driver Survey)


— Distracted driving is the number one killer of American teens. Alcohol-related accidents among teens have dropped, but teenage traffic fatalities have remained unchanged because distracted driving is on the rise. (2007, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and State Farm Insurance Study and NHTSA Study)


— In a study over 18 months, college students using a sophisticated driving simulator showed an eight times greater crash risk when texting than when not texting. (2009, University of Utah Study)


The next time you’re in the car and your phone pops up a message received and you reach for your phone, picture someone you love and how you may miss them and wait to text.


There really is no text worth losing a life or accidentally killing someone over. If you also feel passionately about distracted driving dangers, contact your representatives on a local, state and national level.


Natalie Netzel is a staff writer for The Newberry Observer and can be reached at nnetzel@civitasmedia.com. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.

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