Pay attention to roads, not phones

Rhydian Talbot/Staff Writer

The sun’s shining a little longer, the temperature is climbing higher and the urge for recklessness is growing stronger. With Spring and all its activities — Spring break, prom, graduation — just a page turn away on the calendar, it’s completely understandable that students may start fidgeting with pent up restlessness and recklessness. As we approach the final nine-week stretch, however, it’s absolutely crucial we not forgo basic safety practices when sitting behind the wheel. Allow me to get all “Public Service Announcement” up in here for a few paragraphs in regards to the oft-discussed controversy, texting and driving.

For the license-holding drivers among us, statistics and shocking anecdotes about the dangers of texting while operating a vehicle don’t come as a total surprise, what with driver’s ed spending liberal time cautioning against it. To ward against accidents and fatalities, the state legislature has enacted certain precautionary measures. As per Iowa law, adults caught texting while driving can be slapped with a $30 fine. For teens, the restrictions are a little bit tighter and bit more costly: driving while operating any electronic handheld device generates a $50 slap on the wrist. While deciding that those over 18 are worthy of electronic exemptions may be questionable, the underlying message — prepare to pay for your distractions — remains.

Unfortunately, state law can only force text-and-drivers to pay monetarily for their on-road mistakes; no tangible item could ever pay for a life unnecessarily taken. Almost 6,000 deaths and over half a million injuries are caused by texting drivers every year. Each of those 6,000 deaths are entirely preventable.

What can someone possibly have texted that’s so all-consuming, it couldn’t wait another five minutes? More importantly, what earth-shattering tidbit of information do you need to spread that’s so dire it forces you to stop watching the road for five seconds while hurtling through traffic in two tons of death? Responding to inane gossip about some relationship controversy or a two-timing backstabber sucks up all the energy needed to focus on, you know, staying alive (and keeping those around you breathing, as well). You’re so consumed with a cell phone’s three-inch screen that you fail to see the jaywalking pedestrian, and boom. Manslaughter. How do you compose your text now? “BRB just hit some dude with my car LAWLZ”?

Just soak this in: according to the Department of Transportation, sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — at 55 mph — of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. During these crucial 4.6 seconds, you might fail to see a cute four year old racing into the street to retrieve a wayward basketball. You’d fail to see the unaware biker or the unsteady elderly couple; you’d fail to see the neighbor’s yippy toy-breed dog streaking across the street (on second thought … let your foot slip on the accelerator. Exception to the rule!).

I could continue to bore you with statistics (speaking of: a young driver’s reaction time while texting is equivalent to the reaction time of a 70 year old), or I could give one last heartfelt plea: just don’t do it. Keep your phone in your pocket, in the backseat or in a time-out until you’ve killed the ignition. Waiting another five minutes to read a text won’t kill anyone; taking five seconds to respond while driving, however, could.

Class of 2014

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