Text Messaging and Driving a Lethal Combination
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Wednesday, August 9th, 2006 Kristen DiPaolo | CWK Producer
“It just seems silly to me to even consider text messaging. That’s really high risk. You might as well have a laptop and be working, going down the road. ”
– Ted Waldbart, Safe America Foundation
18-year-old Richard Tatum was driving when he sent his girlfriend a text message.
“I don’t even remember hitting the truck,” says Richard, “because I was looking down at my phone when I hit it.”
“He was using his text messaging on his cell phone, and crossed the yellow line and had a head-on collision with a cement truck,” explains his mom Linda.
His car was totaled: he barely survived.
“So it crushed my pelvis and hip and my knee,” says Richard. “I tore two ligaments and chipped a piece of my knee cap off.”
According to the Allstate Foundation, 13 percent of teens admit to text messaging while driving.
“You just look down, text, look up, drive, look down, text,” says Richard, “and it’s not hard to do so everybody does it.”
According to Australian research, the average teen takes their eyes off the road ten percent of the time - to check road signs, change the radio, or just look around.
But when teens send a text message that jumps to 40 percent.
“You are talking a 400 percent increase in the amount of time that your eyes are off the road,” says Joe Neely, Jr., a driving instructor with the National Safety Council.
The researchers found another startling fact about text messaging behind the wheel.
“And now you are talking [about] a 140 percent increase in lane violations, where you are weaving across lanes because you are not paying attention,” says Neely. “It is extremely frightening.”
Experts say parents should make it clear: teens can use the cell phone or the car, but not both.
“With the teens you have to send the message that you cannot do this while you are driving,” says General Manager Ted Waldbart of the Safe America Foundation, “and if I find out you are doing it, then you are not going to be driving.”
As for Richard, he’s now walking and driving, but he will never be the same.
“He now has the hip of a 47-year-old, at 17 years old, because of the cartilage damage and everything,” says his mom Linda. “And you know, he is going to have arthritis, and he’s just not going to be able to do the things that he could do before.”
“I don’t text when I drive anymore,” says Richard. “It’s not worth breaking my good hip.”
What We Need To Know
■Be a good role model. Do not use your cell phone while driving. (Ted Waldbart, Safe America Foundation)
■Clearly explain to kids that using a cell phone while driving is equivalent to a .08 blood alcohol level – which, in most states, is considered legally drunk. (University of Utah)
■Forbid kids from using a cell phone or text messaging while driving. Make them sign a contract agreeing to these rules. If you catch kids using a cell phone at the wheel, revoke their driving privileges. (Ted Waldbart, Safe America Foundation)
■MONASH University Accident Research Center, Australia
■Safe America Foundation
■National Safety Council