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The Dangerous Side of Texting

As annoying as texting or talking on a cell phone during a movie may be, it usually doesn't result in anyone's death. (Unless, of course, a bit of vigilantism breaks out, as occasionally happens.)

But texting or yacking on a cell phone while driving can cause death. The most sobering look at this was in the New York Times on Sunday. The story is called "Driven to Distraction" and the lead photo is chilling. Taken from the interior of a car, it shows the vehicle doing 60 miles an hour (you can read the speedometer) while the teenage driver texts. A friend is holding the steering wheel.

I urge you to read the story, but here's the money paragraph:

Extensive research shows the dangers of distracted driving. Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.

I thought I was so good, always plugging in my ear bud, but apparently that doesn't reduce the chances that I'll run a red light and T-bone some innocent person. State legislatures seem unwilling to address the issue.

Speaking of the New York Times, the Ethicist revisited the issue of texting that I mentioned last week. Ethicist Randy Cohen discusses the use of cell phone jamming technology as a way of stopping people's annoying calls and texts. These devices, he points out, are illegal.

By John Kelly  |  July 20, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Radical Civility  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: BritNews RoundUp: Spineless Hedgehog Edition
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Hang up and drive!

Posted by: Diner65 | July 20, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

"State legislatures seem unwilling to address the issue."

Well, actually, North Carolina has had a law banning teenagers from any cell phone use while driving. That one passed in 2007.
School bus drivers are also banned from any cell phone use while the bus is moving.
And recently, a new law was passed banning all persons of any age from texting while driving.
Unfortunately, law enforcement says these laws are virtually unenforceable due to problems involving proof. I suspect that these laws are mostly used after an accident has occurred to put an additional fine on the violator, but I very much doubt that they have any prevention effect at all.

Posted by: VaLGaL | July 20, 2009 3:51 PM | Report abuse

Proof of your innocence before judge can be obtained from your provider, if you are not guilty. The police officer must indicate in issued summons exact time of that punishable offense. Perpetrator risk not only his own life but everybody around.

Posted by: aklimento | July 21, 2009 12:21 AM | Report abuse

"State legislatures seem unwilling to address the issue."

This is changing. Virginia now has a no texting while driving law effective July 1, 2009. Maryland has a no texting while driving law effective October 1, 2009. MD also has a underage cell phone law. No driver under 18 may use a cell phone while driving in Maryland; this includes with or without a hands-free device. No allowances. This was effective May 2005. Washington DC has a hands-free law that forbids cell phone use without a hands-free device while driving. This was effective July 2004.

For more information on individual state laws, you can visit:

Posted by: DadWannaBe | July 21, 2009 2:37 PM | Report abuse

From Randy Cohen's article, it seems that cell phone jammers should be legal in schools and movie theaters. The law is making society less civil.

Posted by: jimward21 | July 22, 2009 9:52 AM | Report abuse

I mean this question sincerely and not as a challenge to the idea that talking on a cellphone while driving is dangerous: Why is talking on a cellphone considered such a significant distraction, but talking to someone sitting in the car with you is not? (Or at least is not portrayed as such to the same extent.) Has someone studied the two in comparison? If so, what makes in-person conversation safer?

Posted by: leonardma | July 22, 2009 10:02 AM | Report abuse

Why do the laws seem to apply only to texting and cell phones and to teenagers? What about making it illegal to change your CD or eat or anything else while driving? The other day I nearly ran a red light while adjusting my radio.

Part of the problem is that cars are so automatic drivers don't do much anymore. My father used to drive a pickup, which put him well above most of the small cars on the road, and the things he saw scared him. Cruise control was the worst--people would be sitting cross-legged, with neither foot anywhere near either the brake or the accelerator. Now we have cars where you don't even have to think about rain or darkness--the lights and wipers come on automatically. So of course, no one thinks about slowing down because it's raining either.

Posted by: opinionatedreader | July 23, 2009 10:37 PM | Report abuse

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