Editorial: Drive or text, but not bothTexting and emailing while driving is an epidemic among our young people. Perhaps among adults, too.
Texting and emailing while driving is an epidemic among our young people. Perhaps among adults, too.
Don’t believe it? Nearly 60 percent of high school seniors surveyed said they texted or emailed while driving in the previous month, according to the Centers for Disease Control. That’s up from the nearly 50 percent who admitted in a 2008 AAA survey to sending text messages while driving.
Like all epidemics, this one is contagious.
The CDC survey, which was released this month, found that 43 percent of high school juniors said they also text and email when they’re supposed to be paying attention to the road.
Study after study also has shown that people learning to drive are at greater risk of having an accident than experienced drivers. Add distracted driving into the mix, and these teens pose a tremendous hazard to themselves and everyone else on the road.
Congress has bipartisan legislation pending that includes provisions by Sen. Amy Klobuchar designed to address this health risk. The Senate adopted the bill in March. Now it’s before the House. Her provisions include two key ones:
• peer-to-peer prevention strategies to educate teens about the dangers of drunken driving, speeding, not using seat belts, and texting while driving.
• a standardized, national graduated driver’s license program. This would phase in driving privileges, thereby helping teens acclimate to the rules of the road over time.
The bill is a good start. But is it enough?
The rising numbers of young people texting and emailing and surfing the Internet while behind the wheel, however, begs the question whether it’s time the nation adopted a comprehensive ban on such behavior — and for all ages, not just teens.
Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project determined in 2010 that 27 percent of all adult drivers have sent or read a text message from their vehicle.
The generation now learning to drive grew up texting. They can’t imagine life without a cellphone.
Now imagine life without these teens. Imagine life without their friends or the innocent victims of some fatal crash that resulted because someone took his eyes off the road “for just a second” to send a message.
Sometimes society needs laws to protect people from themselves and to protect the rest of us.
Driving while intoxicated is illegal. Since texting and emailing while driving is just as dangerous, it’s time to raise a generation that can’t imagine anyone ever being allowed to text and drive.
Congress should pass Klobuchar’s provisions and then take the bigger, tougher step in stemming a epidemic.