Just hang up and drive!

BlogHer Original Post

That's right, hang up the damn phone! You're hurtling in 2 tons of machine down the street, weaving in and out of your lane, slowing down, speeding up, cutting people off.

And you, backing out of your driveway, cutting me off (and fortunately not running over a child): I'm sorry, but I just don't get what is so damned important than you have to be yakking on the phone right after you got into your car. Couldn't you make the call, then drive?

Oh, you weren't talking, you were texting? What are you, stupid? You're a hazard. A menace!

Just this past week in New Jersey, a cyclist was seriously injured — broken neck, mind you! — in an accident with a texting driver.

Every day, Cherry Hill resident Lisa Granert bikes to and from her job at a Southampton horse farm. Police say that on Monday 28-year-old Robert Sharrer ran off the road and hit Granert, who was wearing a reflective vest. They say he was sending a text message about a drug deal.

Granert fractured her leg and neck. Speaking from her hospital bed, she says it's not the first time she's been hit.

It seems pretty obvious: If you aren't watching the road, you're a danger to everyone around you. And if you're texting....

you

are

not

watching

the

ROAD!

Going Cellular's Michelle writes:

We’ve all heard stories over the years about women drivers putting on their makeup in the rear view mirror while zipping through rush hour traffic, or men tying their ties while they drive, or many people spilling hot coffee on themselves while driving. Nowadays, those bad behaviors remain, but have been augmented by new ones, specifically those related to cell phones. People talking while driving, one hand on the wheel, the other holding a cell phone to their ear. People dialing while behind the wheel. And, even more recently, people texting while driving. It’s become so common, and has been the cause of so many accidents, that the United States Senate is getting involved, trying to pass legislation that would ban the use of cell phones while driving. Despite the warnings, the news reports of accidents, and even the deaths of classmates, many teens still see nothing wrong with texting while driving.

To be fair, it’s not just teens. Adults are also guilty of it, and in some cases, it’s even worse because parents text while driving—and while their kids are in the car. Other than putting their kids and themselves in danger by engaging in this behavior, they’re also setting the worst possible example for their children. Parents can’t be with their driving-age teenagers all the time, and it’s when those teens are alone in the car that the texting gets out of hand.

I can't say that the Federal government's involvement in some kind of ban is something I want to see. Or something I think would do much good.

She points to a new Pew study [PDF] that's quite unsettling.

Overall, 34% of teen texters ages 16-17 say they have texted while driving. That translates into 26% of all American teens ages 16-17.

Boys and girls are equally likely to report texting be- hind the wheel; 34% of each group say they have used text messaging while driving. At the same time, texting at the wheel is less common than having a conversation on the phone while driving. Looking at teens ages 16-17 who have a cell phone, 52% say they have talked on a cell phone while driving. That translates into 43% of all American teens ages 16-17....

...Teens also told of a variety of practices they use to try to increase safety while still maintaining the ability to text in the car. Some felt as though they could safely manage a quick exchange of texts while the car was stopped....

...Others told of holding the phone up to keep their eyes simultaneously on the road and the phone. “I try not to, but at a red light, it’s a lot easier” said one high school boy. “And if I do text while I’m driving, I usually try to keep the phone up near the windshield, so if someone is braking in front of me or stops short, I’m not going to be looking down and hit them”...

...Other teens were more blasé about texting in the car. Said one high-school aged boy: “I think it’s fine...And I wear sunglasses so the cops don’t see [my eyes looking down].” Likewise, another high school-aged girl wrote that she texts “all the time,” and that “everybody texts while they drive (...) like when I’m driving by myself I’ll call people or text them ‘cause I get bored.” One older high school-aged boy explained that he limits his texting while driving only if his parents are around: “I’m fine with it, just not with my mom and dad in the car. Like when I’m with my brother, I do it.”

—Pew: Teens and Distracted Driving, pp. 4-6

So would a law banning cell phone usage and texting make a difference? Check out these insights from some pre-teens:

"In California, texting and talking on the phone while driving is illegal," said California resident Stacey Middlebrook, '11, said. "I both text and talk on the phone while driving in both Pennsylvania and California. If Pennsylvania bans talking or texting while driving, I will probably still do both, such as I do when I'm in California," she said. "I won't feel any more safe because the people who get in accidents texting are the ones who are the worst drivers and will probably still get in accidents."

Danielle Spar, '10, had similar views.

"I talk on the phone and text while driving very frequently and would be annoyed if Pennsylvania bans this," she said. "I wouldn't really feel any safer."

Jill Froimson, '12, of Ohio said she would not feel safer with this law either.

"In Ohio, texting while driving is illegal," she said. "I am always texting, and this doesn't change behind the wheel of a car. I for some reason have convinced myself that I'm so good at texting that it's OK to do it while driving. I wouldn't really feel any safer if this law is put into effect."

Meet your fellow drivers a few years from now. Nothing like the warm fuzzies of denial.

Maybe all this irritates me because it's all nothing new to me. I've had a cell phone since the mid-'90s. And it didn't take long for me to realize that I was pretty distracted when talking on the phone and driving. And it's even worse with texting. I have hands-free system in my car now.

And I'm not dumb enough to text while driving. Even at a red light it's a gamble.

So why do people do it? Why can't they stop doing it?

The New York Times has an article on how drivers want to disable their phones while driving.

Dede Haskins’s cellphone has been her constant companion for more than a decade. And she has always considered herself a careful driver — even using a hands-free set so she could keep both hands on the wheel.

But after missing one too many exits because she was distracted by a phone call, Ms. Haskins decided it was time to get tough with herself. So she signed up for ZoomSafer, a free service that uses her phone’s GPS sensors to determine whether she’s at driving speeds, and then disables her cellphone until she stops the car.

No accidents mentioned in the story. Lucky for her.

Others aren't so fortunate.

What do you think? Are you a texting-while-driving rock star? Do you know better but do it anyway? Do you need a federal law to get you to stop?

Why can't people just stop doing it? You know, like how Craig Ferguson stopped smoking?

I'm going to end this here. I'm coming up to a stop light.

When not driving, BlogHer Tech & Web Contributing Editor Laura Scott blogs at rare pattern, and Tweets as @lauras.

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