July 28, 2009

Texting While Driving A Menace

After the American Century

Once again technological-social change has outrun the rather lame politicians, and your life is in danger every single day as a result. Anyone paying attention knows that many drivers now are not looking at the road, but at a hand-held device, texting. New studies have now appeared that confirm a common sense understanding that such distractions are extremely dangerous. People who text while driving are at least as dangerous as those who are drunk. Their risk of being in an accident is 23 times greater - 2300% higher - than for non-texting drivers. For more details, see the New York Times.

What to do about it? The problem is two-fold. Both laws and public attitudes must change. Many nations and most American states do not prohibit driving while texting, which is rapidly becoming "normal" behavior. Delay in getting legislation on the books is politically negligent, because the longer it is legal the harder it will be to change the public perception of texting while driving. It ought to be perceived as the equivalent of driving while intoxicated - which causes thousands of highway deaths and injuries. At the moment, however, there is little or no social stigma attached to texting while driving. Most people do not drive when drunk, but most people have at least occasionally sent or received text messages, often while moving at 100 kilometers an hour or more. At such speeds, cars travel a long way in 5 seconds, which is how long a "texter" is not looking at the road. We alredy knew that talking on cell phones is a dangerous distraction, but now it is clear that texting is far worse.