Dear fellow drivers,
We have a problem in Tennessee that is maiming and killing our citizens, and it is a problem we have chosen to create. As you might guess, that issue is texting and driving.
As the parent of a little girl who has just been cleared by Dad to drive, I have long thought about addressing it. Given that this week is National Teen Driver Safety Week– a week designated by Congress to raise awareness to issues affecting teenage drivers and to promote safe driving – now is as good a time as any to talk about the growing problem of texting and driving.
As a personal injury attorney, it is an unfortunate consequence of my job to see very injured people in my office on a daily basis.
For more than twenty years, I have been asking my clients the same question – “What happened?”
While the question has remained the same over the years, the answer has changed. In the past, the answer dealt with someone getting in a car accident because the other driver was changing the radio, looking at directions, talking to passengers or just generally not paying attention.
Now, at least 50 percent of the time, the answer is the same: “The other driver was looking down at their phone.”
While that might be perceived as good news for me a lawyer, it is bad news for me as a driver and very bad news for me as the parent of a teenage driver.
Texting while driving is a universal problem
Unfortunately, this is viewed as a problem with our youth. It is not. I travel the interstate daily. I am constantly amazed and irritated by the number of drivers I see swerving. I think to myself, this is a strange time to be drunk. Then I see them with their face buried in their phone. This may strike a chord with many of you for one of two reasons – you see it or you do it.
The simple truth is that texting and driving is deadly. According to the Tennessee Highway Patrol, highway fatalities have spiked and are on a pace to top last year. The culprit is texting while driving. According to Col. Tracy Trott of the THP, the number of alcohol-related crashes have dropped by more than 10 percent. However, of the more than 800 fatalities this year on Tennessee highways, Trott estimates that more than half of those accidents involved a distracted driver.
“Not many people are going to admit to that being the cause of the crash, but we know that we see it all the time. Everybody is on an iPhone. Everybody is on a Blackberry. Everybody is talking, texting, emailing.” – Col. Tracy Trott
Even though Tennessee has a law banning texting while driving, Trott says there’s very little troopers can do to crack down on it except to ask that people put down their phones.
In short, we are choosing to put ourselves in danger on the road. The vast majority of us would never drink and drive, but we think nothing of burying our face in a cell phone while going 60 miles-per-hour.
There is the great myth that you can use your phone safely while driving. That is simply not true.
A study at the University of Utah determined that drivers using cell phones had slower reaction times than drivers with a .08 blood alcohol level. To state it a different way, you are a better driver if you are drunk than if you are texting. According to the National Safety Council, you are four times more likely to cause a car accident if you are on your cell phone. According to the National Safety Council study referenced above, more than 100,000 crashes yearly involve drivers who were texting.
How do we fix this?
The answer starts by looking in the mirror. Please put down your phone.
If you need to use your phone, pull over. If that is not an option, go hands free and make a call. While talking on the phone while driving has problems of its own, that is a fight for a different day.
The point of this open letter is to ask you to stop texting while driving. It is dangerous and there are better alternatives. Is there any message so important that it is worth the risk of ruining someone’s life or maybe even your own?
Please give some thought to what I have said today. Putting the phone down may the best easy decision you will ever make.
My kids thank you.
A busy lawyer and a concerned Dad
Image credit: Phil’s 1stPix