Technology has improved dramatically, and cellular phones by far have become the most popular invention of our time. There is no doubt that it has been a great achievement and is one of the most convenient devices that man has ever known. However, along with the good, there will always be drawbacks to these new inventions, and the epidemic of texting while driving is by far the greatest misuse of this amazing device yet. Many deaths and injuries have come from this dangerous practice, and it is of the utmost importance that we, as a society, put an end to the tragedies by not only making it illegal to text while driving, but by teaching and setting an example for our young drivers, that no text message is so important that it cannot wait until your car is parked. After all, it only takes a second of taking your eyes off the road to cause a tragic accident, and put your life and the lives of innocent people at risk. The bottom line, is that texting and driving is not okay.
While speaking with Oklahomans, it is troubling to me that although most campaigns are concentrated on teaching teens about the dangers of texting while driving, the greatest responses that I get is about the amount of grown adults that they see on a daily basis, nearly causing accidents as they weave in and out of their lane of traffic. At first sight, you automatically think that this person must be intoxicated, but once you pass them on the road, all you see is a phone in their hand while texting, not looking up at the road for a long period of time; Plenty of time to cause a major accident. You would believe that grown adults would have the common sense to know how dangerous this is, but i’m afraid it’s going to take something major to finally wake them up. We as adults are supposed to be the ones setting examples for our youth on what not to do. When young people see adults doing it, what example are we setting? We preach to them not to do it, and then do it ourselves? It makes absolutely no sense at all.
What could possibly be so important in a text message that it is worth your life, or the life of some other innocent person, possibly with children in the car? How would you ever live with yourself if you killed an entire family, because you could not wait until you arrived at your destination to check your cell phone? No text message could possibly be that important, and honestly, it is one of the most inconsiderate and selfish acts a person can do; To take chances with other people’s safety in such a careless manor. If you feel you have received an emergency text message that needs to be read immediantly, feel free to pull safely off the road or into a parking lot and read the message. Now, that seems to be adult, common sense problem solving. Our children watch everything we do very closely, whether you realize it or not, and they are learning from us what is right and wrong. You must remember everyday, that children everywhere are watching adults and learning from us, not just our own children.
Oklahoma is working on a bill right now to make this act illegal, but Oklahoma Representative Morgan quoted in a 2010 interview, “Some make an argument that you shouldn’t have to pass a law to stop people from violating common sense, but I believe people are less apt to text and drive, or email and drive, if it’s actually against the law to do it.” He may be right. Many people in Oklahoma didn’t wear seatbelts on a regular basis until they knew that if they were caught without wearing one, that they would be stopped and fined for it. As of right now, the only legislation against texting and driving is against teens who have permits, but that is about to end as our representatives are working hard to pass a bill to make it illegal for anyone to text or email while driving. What is sad, is that many lives could have already been saved if that bill had been passed long ago like it should have been.
Teens seem to think they are invincible and that nothing bad could ever happen to them, but we have to take the time to teach them that bad things can and do happen to teenagers everyday, and they have to learn from our example. We have to teach them that driving a car is a huge responsibility that should never be taken lightly. There should be no distractions, their eyes should remain on the road at all times, and they should be ready for any surprises from other drivers, that may cause them to need to react quickly. Reaction time is key, and if your distracted by your cell phone or take your eyes off the road to read or respond to a text, that is all the time it takes for something to occur that would make it impossible to react in time to avoid a possible disaster. Although cell phones are a great asset for our teens to have in their cars with them in case of emergencies, there are rules that must be laid down and strictly enforced or have substantial consequences that they must deal with. One of the biggest rules most Oklahomans believe should be implemented, is that cell phones should be put away in a console or in the back seat of a car while the car is in motion. That eliminates any usage while driving, and makes the roads safer for us all. Many believe that adults should adopt the same concept, as this has become a problem for adults as often as children at this point.
In 2009, AT&T launched the “It Can Wait” texting movement, and it has grown throughout the nation. AT&T chairman and CEO, Randall Stephenson, waged a war after it became personal to him, as someone close to him caused an accident while texting a few years before. He said in a statement to the press, “A text can wait. In the United States, someone is killed or injured once every five minutes on average in a crash that happens while a driver is texting and driving.” Those are grave statistics that deserve all of our attention.
If the statistics do not scare you enough, real life stories may be what is needed to get your attention. One person reported on the AT&T website, “I saw someone texting on the phone. They drove through a red light and slammed into another car. The person’s car flipped in front of me 3 times. I tried to help, but they died right in front of me. It was a mother and her 6 year old daughter.” That is just one story out of hundreds posted on the site, all horrific, and all one hundred percent preventable. Other people and organizations have now joined in on the effort in Oklahoma City, including but not limited to, Governor Mary Fallin, AAA Oklahoma, and the Department of Public Safety of Oklahoma City. They launch ads, campaigns, and even put up banners and signs to remind people of the consequences that could face them if they choose to use their cell phones while driving. The police want you to realize, that if you cause the death of another person because of negligence behind the wheel, you will be charged with that person’s death, not to mention the thousands of dollars it will cost you if you injure someone in the same manner, and they file a personal lawsuit against you. If you were texting and driving, talking on your phone, or distracted in any way, they would most likely win in a lawsuit and you could lose everything. It is just not worth it.
The following is a memorial to just a few of the beautiful people that have been killed because of texting and driving. Just think of these people the next time you feel the need to pick up your phone while you are driving down the road; You just may think twice next time. Also, AT&T has a pledge that they have created that can be printed off their website. It’s a promise that you can take with your child, your spouse, a friend, or just for yourself that you will never text and drive again. Wouldn’t it be great if every Oklahoman and people across the nation, would take the opportunity to promise to another person that they love and respect, that they will never put their lives or the lives of others in danger from texting or emailing while driving ever again? The roads would certainly be a lot safer place to be if that miracle ever happened. Thank you, AT&T, for getting involved, and trying to save lives and prevent further tragedies such as these:
Amanda Umscheid wrote on the AT&T website about her sister recently. She stated, “My name is Amanda and I have a story to tell. My nineteen year old sister, a student at Kansas State University, was killed May 16, 2009, in a car accident. She was texting me when her truck entered the median. She over-corrected and flipped end over end several times before being ejected. The guilt I feel everyday is a hard load to carry.
Alex Brown, 17, a senior at Seagraves High School, died November, 10, 2010, while texting and driving. Alex was on her way to school when she rolled her truck and was ejected from the vehicle. She was a good student, enrolled in FFA, FCA, FTA, Basketball, Cheerleading, OneAct Play, the Leadership Team, the Kairos Prison Ministry, and the Drama Ministry with the Youth Group at Calvary Baptist Church.
Kayla Preuss, 16, died of head injuries when she lost control of her car and slammed into the center median. Phone records show Preuss was texting just before the accident.
Bailey Goodman, 17, was killed, along with four of her fellow cheerleaders when she swerved into oncoming traffic, hit a tractor-trailer, and her SUV burst into flames. Just five days earlier, the five teenagers had graduated from high school. Two minutes before the crash was reported, her phone was used to send a text greeting to a friend.
Ashley D. Miller, 18, veered into oncoming traffic and hit another car head-on, while she was texting. She and the driver of the other car, a forty year old woman and mother of 1, were killed instantly.
Dana Trammell, 17, was texting someone on her way to school, on the first day of her senior year when she crashed and was thrown from her vehicle. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Chelsea Ann Bragg, 16, was killed in a crash after texting while driving. She veered off the shoulder of the road and lost control of the car, causing it to roll twice. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Vanna Francis,17, and Ronnie Scroggins, 15, both drowned when a car carrying seven teenagers drove off the road and into a river. The twenty year old driver admitted she was texting on her cell phone when the car plunged into the water, and was later arrested.
Earman Machado, 13, was killed when a car driven by Craig P. Bigos, a 31 year old father of four, swerved onto the side of the street and struck the boy on his bike while text messaging on his phone. Bigos has been charged with motor vehicle homicide, leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and driving without a license.
Toni Bolis, 28, nine months pregnant with R.J., still in womb, both died when twenty-one year old Daniel Pereira’s car crossed into Toni’s lane and struck her truck, because he was texting while driving. She was also a married mother of a two year old girl. Her sister talks of her last day of normalcy, when she and her mother accompanied her sister to her last ultrasound appointment. Later that night, after the accident, she talks of how family members rushed from their nearby township homes and got to the scene before the police. She recalled how Toni’s left arm and head hung out of the driver’s side window and how Pereira, sitting nearby, told the family he was distracted by his cell phone. She stated, “They worked on her on the side of the road for what seemed like forever.” She said her sister and nephew likely died on impact. Toni and her 8 pound, 2 ounce son, Ryan Jeffrey (as she had planned to name him), lay in the same casket at the funeral. The baby was in his mother’s arms, dressed in his Christening outfit.
There are countless stories, but the point has been made. It is time to make the pledge, and make our roads safer here in Oklahoma as well as the rest of the nation. Please teach your children, be an example for them to follow, and protect yourself and other innocent people on our roads, simply by putting your phone away while your driving and waiting until you are at your destination to text, receive texts, or even make phone calls. Think of how you would feel if any of these victims were your family or friends. It would be a devastating phone call to receive as a family, and the guilt you would feel if you ever caused an accident such as these, would haunt you for the rest of your life.
It’s time to make a change, Oklahoma. Let’s start making our roads safer for our family and friends. Make the pledge, and encourage others in your inner circle to do the same. Pass this around to your loved ones and start saving lives today.