Hoppy’s Commentary for Thursday

I admit it.  I occasionally text while I’m driving. 

Lord knows I talk on the cell phone while behind the wheel. 

I’m not proud of it. 

And, yes, I’ve fussed on my radio show about my fellow drivers who are looking down at their text messages or yakking on their phones and not paying attention to what they’re doing.

My hypocrisy knows no bounds.

I’m not alone, of course.  According to the U.S. Transportation Department, one in five motorists admits to texting while driving. 

Think about that while you are driving down the road. Even if you are following the righteous path (thou shalt keep his hands off the devil’s devices while driving), you now know that 20 percent of all the machines passing you traveling at 70 miles an hour are being operated by a person who is, or has been, texting about God knows what.

WTH?

For me, texting while driving is a secret addiction.  I say to myself, "I’m going to do it just this one time, but that’s it!"   For good measure, I add a sense of urgency. "Besides, this is REALLY important." 

Self-importance is an unflattering characteristic of today’s culture.

Some have had enough.  35 states have outlawed texting while driving.  10 states have made it illegal to talk on your hand-held cell phone while behind the wheel.  West Virginia could be next.

Governor Tomblin is pushing a bill this session that makes texting and talking on a cell phone that is not hands-free a secondary offense.  That means it would be like the seat belt law–the police cannot pull you over for a violation, but if they stop you for something else and discover that you are in violation, they can write you a ticket.

Yes, there is the argument that such a law is virtually unenforceable, that the "crackberry" crowd will continue to drive and dish with not so much as a dropped call.

Maybe, but any such law would also come with a public awareness campaign.  There’s a growing body of research about just how risky it is to engage in these two totally unrelated behaviors at the same time.

A Texas A&M study found that texting while driving doubles your reaction time.   If you’re driving 50 mph, you travel the distance of a football field about every four seconds, so even increasing your reaction time by a couple of seconds makes a big difference.

Additionally, the study showed, a texting driver is 11 times more likely to miss a flashing yellow light than a motorist who is not texting.  And texters have greater trouble staying in their lane, even at relatively low speeds.

These diversions have a cost.  Transportation Department statics show that distracted driving is the cause of about 20 percent of all fatal accidents and cell phone use is a leading contributor to distracted driving.

I’ve heard plenty from the opponents of such a law.  Some argue that eating or listening to the radio is just as distracting (it isn’t).   And others rail that it’s government as a "nanny state." 

I don’t buy that it’s excessive government intrusion.  We already have to be licensed, obey myriad rules of the road, have our vehicles inspected periodically and so on. 

The highways are fast and dangerous.  Outlawing behavior that can be as risky as driving while drunk seems reasonable.

After all, I could be the guy speeding up behind you in my Buick, texting something really important. 





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