Dare to say no to texting and driving

Texting and driving is no doubt one of the most dangerous things you can do behind the wheel. They say one second of looking down at your phone equates to one football field in length that your car flies down the road while texting and driving. That’s a long distance to be driving blind, but we do it every day.

At Monday’s Legislative Breakfast Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, talked about the careless driving bill in committee this session (House Bill 856) that would establish texting while driving as careless driving. Doty said there was a version of the bill that would make it illegal only if you are under the age of 18, and added that she believed everyone should be responsible and make a commitment to not text and drive.

A quick check on the Mississippi Legislature’s website reveals that the bill died in committee.

But, let’s face it, no matter how many public service announcements showing people talking about their last text to a friend who died checking it, or the last text someone sent before mowing down innocent pedestrians, or the road side memorials that remind passersby that danger is around every corner, we will pick up that dinging phone every time. We are compelled. The impulse seems unavoidable.

Who knows why we must look right away? Why is waiting until we reach our destination, or stopping along the way rarely even considered? Maybe it’s the instant gratification of knowing that someone wants to talk to us, that someone is interested in us, loves us, wants to know “Where you at?” Maybe it’s the compulsion we have as humans to feel connected, and to never feel we’re in this alone.

It takes a person with an incredible amount of self-control to listen to the sound of incoming messages or a phone call and just say, No. I assume it does anyway, since I have yet to overcome such a compulsion – even on Highway 583. Granted, on 583 I have never gotten a text typed in and sent. Not that I didn’t try, I just didn’t get it done before having a near catastrophe next to one of the several memorials that can be seen on 583 between Brookhaven and Enterprise.

There are the hands-free devices – ear-pieces and dashboard phones that have voice activated texting features – and these are safer, I guess, but still the mind of the driver is not on the driving. In Driving 101 they taught you to not visit with your friends while you’re trying to drive, and I can’t say as I really see the difference here. Never-the-less, only a few drivers on the road have these devices. Most are texting with one hand on the wheel, or a knee and no hands, and both eyes on their tiny little keyboards like there’s no tomorrow.

Texting and driving is not seen as the moral wrong that drinking and driving is, so everybody does it and will do it with abandon, unless something drastic is done. I don’t believe making it illegal is going to reduce the number of people who text and drive. And, if I’m honest with myself it wouldn’t stop my urge to answer, or at least look.

Instead, I think the challenge should be to create a unit like a black box, or a signal scrambler of some sort for every vehicle that disables cell phones except for 911 purposes. There of course would be the exceptions, like people transporting special needs folks, the elderly or children.

Until then I think I should take Doty’s advice and make a commitment that will force the super-mom in me to stop trying to multi-task when I’m behind the wheel. Do I really need to take care of business on the phone, have my breakfast and coffee and keep the children in line, all while getting them to school and daycare?

I should at the least subtract the phone duties from the drive and just get to my destination safely.

How about you?

Rhonda Dunaway is the lifestyles editor of The Daily Leader. You may email her at rhonda.dunaway@dailyleader.com or mail a letter to P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602-0551.