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Driving While Texting Causes Deaths: But, Does Outlawing it Make Us Any Safer?

12.15.10

Many states now have laws that make texting while driving illegal, seeing as people literally take their eyes off the road for several seconds at a time, causing accidents and sometimes deaths.

Such was the case for a 20-year-old woman in Glendale. After a three-month investigation in a fatal accident, it was concluded that the driver was texting when she ran a stop sign, striking and killing an 80-year-old man.

The Glendale Mayor had this to say about the situation:

Mayor Ara Najarian said distracted driving and traffic collisions involving pedestrians had reached “an epidemic point in Glendale.”

The son of the deceased offered this:

Following the crash, the son, Roger Ranjbar, said he hoped “it was an accident, and nothing else like alcohol, or drugs, or like texting or talking on the phone.”

To which I say: what difference does it make?

Not to say that this isn’t tragic.  To be 20-years-old and facing potential manslaughter or murder charges for typing “BRB” to her friend is devastating and life-changing to say the least.  And I know how annoyed I get when someone cuts me off on the road and I see that they have a cell phone up to their ear (which is also illegal in California, but whatever), so to know that your father was killed because of similar behavior would most likely be maddening and infuriating.

But, aside from the emotional fury, what does it matter?  Whether she was texting, chatting, doing her makeup, changing out a CD, changing the radio dial, turning down the volume on the stereo, adjusting her mirrors, eating, or any number of other possible things that people do when they’re behind the wheel, the result is the same: she failed to stop at a stop sign and, now, a man is dead.

Granted, texting is by far one of the the worst activities you can do while driving. With just about everything else, you at least have your eyes up — but texting you’re usually looking down into your lap, especially now in California because you don’t want a cop to see that you’re holding your phone in your hand.  I think it’s beyond stupid to text and drive even though I’m not perfect and I used to text occasionally while I drove — now I make a point of not doing so.  Not because I’m so worried about the ticket but because I don’t want to end up pulling a 20-year-old-texting move like that Glendale girl.

At the same time, I do use my phone as my iPod, so sometimes I glance over-slash-down to change songs.  Is that different?  Is that illegal?  I don’t know how many times I’ve done that and wondered if I got pulled over if I could argue my way out of the ticket since changing the radio dial isn’t illegal, so why should this act be outlawed?  Where do you draw the line?

The reality is that driving is inherently dangerous.  Way more than most of us acknowledge.  Living in Los Angeles, it’s commonplace to hear talk about a “fatal accident” on the radio when they give the frequent traffic update on the drive into work in the morning.  Think about that: people driving to work will die every single week, just commuting, an everyday activity for most of us — for any number of reasons. So often that it’s not even shocking when I hear it from the morning shows.

My point is this: don’t trust anyone else behind the wheel. If you’re driving, be aware of everyone around you and don’t trust a soul to obey traffic laws.  No texting ban or cell phone ban or eating ban or whatever they impose will make us any safer — people will still be idiots when driving.  It’s up there with death and taxes.

Case in point: just this morning as I was driving through an intersection because the light turned green, I noticed a woman on a bike riding down an alleyway headed toward the street.  I assumed she was going to stop since, well, there was a line of on-coming traffic headed her way with the right-of-way — but, I left off the gas anyway.  Sure enough, without even bothering to glance to either side, she just kept on riding – slowly – across the street right in front of me as I slammed on my brakes.  Oblivious, completely.  Or suicidal.

The only thing you have control over is yourself, and defensive driving is your best way to stay safe.

(H/T LAist)

Image courtesy of mrJasonWeaver’s Flickr Photostream.



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2 comments

  1. I think legislation has value in raising public awareness in forums like this one but it will be difficult to solely legislate our way out of this issue. I just read that 72% of teens text daily – many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook – even with their professors. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and its not going away.

    I decided to do something about it after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver . Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based, texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER LLC
    OTTER app


    • I’ve read about your product, Erik. Interesting and could be helpful, indeed. But I can’t imagine it’ll ever be required on all cell phones, which means that it again, is up to the individual to turn on that app if one desires that restraint. And if that’s the case, can’t we just also not text if we’re aware enough to turn on that app? Regardless — we’re aiming at the same mark: much fewer texting-drivers on the road.



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