Texting behind wheel proves dangerous habit

Published 6:00 pm Sunday, October 10, 2010

It’s a simple act with serious consequences.

How many times have we been driving down the road and heard thecell phone chime notice of an incoming text message?

It’s hard to resist the urge to reply immediately. After all, itwill take just a few seconds for a couple quick presses of a fewbuttons on a keypad, right?

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Wrong! Those few seconds could see the driver accidentally veeroff the road into a tree or miss seeing the car ahead put on itsbrakes to stop. Or worse, a child could somehow become a victim ofthis distracted driving habit.

Sgt. Rusty Boyd, public affairs officer for Mississippi HighwayPatrol’s Troop M, puts the situation plainly.

“Anybody texting and driving is not looking at the road,” hesaid.

Boyd offered a bit of advice for how to deal with that littlebeep or text message chime.

“If it’s that important, they need to stop, take care of it andthen continue driving,” Boyd said. “They don’t need to be doingboth at the same time.”

Likewise, Boyd’s admonishment could be applied to otherinstances as well, such as eating or fiddling with the radiodial.

And of course, talking on a cell phone – while perhaps not asdistracting as texting – has its own dangers. And punching a keypadto initiate a cell phone call is really no different than textingand driving.

Some recent campaigns have sought to raise awareness of thedangers of texting and driving.

At last weekend’s Ole Brook Festival, the Junior Auxiliary ofBrookhaven finished giving out wristbands with a DNT TXT N DRVmessage printed on them. Including those given out to area highschools students, 2,200 wristbands were distributed as part of a JAprovisional class project.

Also this past week, some Jackson school students heard amessage from former New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAlisterand others about the dangers of texting and driving. The “X theText” program saw students provide thumbprint pledges to avoid thedangerous activity.

During the 2009 legislative session, state lawmakers approved aban on young drivers with learning permits and those withintermediate licenses from texting while driving. The law tookeffect last July, but MHP officials acknowledged that catchingyoung drivers in the act has been difficult.

Nevertheless, the dangers of distracted driving cannot beunderstated. Therefore, common sense needs to prevail or a lawbanning the practice for all drivers needs to be pursued andpassed.

Like the logo for the Don’t Text and Drive campaign says, whenit comes to using a cell phone while behind the wheel, motoristsjust need to “Put It Down.”