In the lastest edition of Conestoga High School’s The Spoke, I read a very scary article by student reporter Brittany Roker on text-messaging while driving. Statistically, I’m fairly sure that teenage drivers have the highest percentage of traffic accidents. Taking that in to consideration, can you imagine that 74% of the Conestoga High School interviewed admit that they always or occasionally text-message while they are behind the wheel!
Parents, please talk to your children about this issue . . . their safety (and ours) is at risk. Thank you Brittany for enlightening many of us on this topic.
CHS The Spoke
12 January 2010 Issue
By Brittany Roker, Staff Reporter
Braking the habit: students text behind the wheel
That familiar sound and the constant vibrations can signal disaster for drivers. Although senior Holly Mainiero comes to a stop at a traffic light before feverishly snatching her cell phone, she does not put the brakes on texting. Mainiero is not alone in her habits.
According to a recent Spoke survey, 91 percent of licensed seniors think that texting behind the wheel is unsafe, yet 74 percent report that they always or occasionally text while driving. While only 19 percent of the seniors surveyed said that they know someone who has been in an accident due to texting on the roads, Eric Bolton, a public affairs officer with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that new research conducted by the organization has shown that collisions frequently happen because of inattentive driving. “It was amazing to see people doing all kinds of distracting tasks while they were driving and what was happening—a lot of near misses and crashes, people driving up on sidewalks,” Bolton said.
This study, conducted about three years ago, occurred when the NHTSA partnered with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, Bolton said. The organizations found that, for every six seconds of drive time, a driver who sends or receives a text message has his eyes off of the road for 4.6 of the six seconds. Research by the NHTSA is one of many sources of information provided by the government about cell phone usage in the driver’s seat. According to the United States Department of Transportation, nearly 6,000 U.S. citizens died last year because they used a cellular device while driving. Statistics such as these influenced 19 states to ban texting while driving. Pennsylvania is one of the 31 remaining states that has not already made texting while driving illegal. Although a statewide ban is currently nonexistent, several cities, including Philadelphia, have succeeded in making the act illegal.
On Dec. 1, Philadelphia police began enforcing a ban on cell phone usage while driving. The ban prohibits drivers from talking or texting on mobile phones in the city, although drivers can use hands-free devices instead. A violation carries a $75 fine that can increase to as much as $300 if it is not paid.
A statewide ban on texting while driving was sent to the House on Nov. 10. In addition to prohibiting texting while driving, the bill also forbids 16 to 18-year-old drivers from using cell phones in any way while driving. If the bill, officially titled House Bill 2070, is passed, violators will have to pay a fine ranging from $50 to $100. Currently, the bill is being reviewed by committees in the House and will eventually be voted on by state representatives. If accepted by the House, the bill will go to the state Senate and then to Gov. Ed Rendell for approval.
Eric Bolton, of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that the administration is supportive of states cracking down on the dangerous habit. “I think that the administration would like to see the states take a strong stance on all kinds of distracted driving, including texting while driving,” Bolton said. Bolton said that the administration, which conducts research about vehicle safety and reports its results to the public, found that texting while driving causes cognitive impairment because the act uses the driver’s mind, taking his attention off of the road.
Conestoga highway safety teacher Michael Cangi finds the laws that state representatives are considering impractical. He said that he believes the connection between Americans and their cell phones is too strong for a law regulating driver behavior to be passed. “The phone is connected to them as much as your glasses are to your face. You simply can’t go without them,” Cangi said. Cangi said that the solution to teen texting while driving is through education. He said he thinks that law enforcement officers and educators must inform young drivers so that they may better understand the risks and make smarter choices.
Junior Callie Clifton said that she never texts while she drives. She said that families are the key to stopping teens from texting behind the wheel. “I believe that, in order to prevent texting while driving, parents need to raise their kids in an environment where it is not encouraged,” Clifton said. “Parents should teach their kids about the dangers of texting while driving and explain to them that texting can wait until you get out of the car.” Clifton may be a young driver, but her opinions are similar to those of adult lawmakers and researchers. She said she thinks that many of her peers are unaware of the consequences of their actions. “I think the problem with today’s teens is that they think they’re too good at texting and at driving, so they assume nothing bad will happen if they mix the two,” Clifton said. “I think teens don’t realize how easy it is to look away from the road for one second and lose control of their car.”
Brittany Roker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Printed originally on p. 3 of The Spoke’s Jan. 12, 2010 issue.