The Texts That Kill Us

Cell phones and their use has swept over the world in a frenzy of buying and selling the likes of which we have probably never seen before. When Apple talks about selling hundreds of thousands of phones and the pressure is on for every executive to have a brand presence on this digital genie, we know it’s taken hold

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of us. Some, apparently seeking yet another form of addiction, have suggested it is a new addiction. I would beg to differ, but I’m not inclined to elaborate on it. You give it some thought because it’s good for the growth of neurons in your brain and will benefit you. How many brands are there and how much time do we spend on cell use each year? You’ve got to use up all that usage time, don’t you? Another good question to research.

One bit of research that would be extremely helpful to all of us would be just how many people disobey the laws regarding cell use, or texting, and driving. I live in a state where you can get a ticket for use of a cell while driving. But it’s unclear if

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you can still get a ticket for hands-free cell use. Remember, you don’t need to use your hands to have your attention distracted and to become, in essence, a danger on the roads. As much as you might wish to believe that you CAN divide your brain into the mechanics of driving and the cognition required to form sensible responses on a cell, you just can’t. Go ahead, prove the neuroscientists wrong if you’d like.

Head over to the Centers for Disease Control and you’ll find that:

“Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. Distracted driving is driving while doing another activity that takes your attention away from driving. Distracted driving can increase the chance of a motor vehicle crash.

There are three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking your eyes off the road;
  • Manual: taking your hands off the wheel; and
  • Cognitive: taking your mind off of driving.

Distracted driving activities include things like using a cell phone, texting, and eating. Using in-vehicle technologies (such as navigation systems) can also be sources of distraction. While any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others, texting while driving is especially dangerous because it combines all three types of distraction.”

Break the statistics down a bit as the CDC did and you’ll have your jaw drop a bit more as you read that:

  • “In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,360 in 2011. An additional, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver in 2012, a 9% increase from the 387,000 people injured in 2011.
  • In 2011, nearly one in five crashes (17%) in which someone was injured involved distracted driving.
  • In December 2012, more than 171 billion text messages were sent or received in the US.”

Over 3K people were killed by a distracted driver in 2012 but that’s three years ago and the numbers must have climbed astronomically since then. Am I being a bit annoying by making that statement? You don’t text and drive or use your cell while driving, do you? Oh, you haven’t killed someone else’s child or run into someone else’s car, so you’re doing just fine, right?

Dead wrong, kiddo. Pray that the day never comes when you find yourself beside a police officer filling out an accident report while an ambulance takes your

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carnage away. Terrible scene, isn’t it? Maybe you should keep it in mind each time you climb into your car and you’re tempted to text or take a call. Yeah, even a hands-free cell call.

Are we text-loving folks in the US the only ones who break this cardinal rule of driving; keep your eyes and your mind on the road? No, we are not alone and drivers around the world are chugging along as they chortled. Again, the CDC provides a few interesting tidbits:

Talking on a cell while driving?

  • “In Europe, (the) percentage ranged from 21% in the United Kingdom to 59% in Portugal.”

Texting or emailing while driving:

“In Europe, this percentage ranged from 15% in Spain to 31% in Portugal.”

In the US, persons under 20 are at highest risk for driving while texting and it has devastating results for them, their friends and those on the road. If you want more information on world statistics, the World Health Organization has a booklet for you.

But you’re not under 21, or are you? You’re a responsible adult, possibly a parent, and you take great care while driving. You put your kids into the back seat in car

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seats that you researched carefully and you make sure it’s buckled in correctly. Let’s not go into the whole question of your front seat, actually, being an instrument of potentially lethal injury to your child. Yeah, car manufacturers have a very low, almost nonexistent, standard to meet here and a dining room chair meets it. Dining room chair? That’s it.

Today, I saw a guy driving a huge SUV, almost a tank, as he texted with his left hand and put his right hand behind his head. Yes, his car was in motion and he was

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in traffic. Honey, you’re not sitting in your living room Easy Boy recliner and it’s not half time for the game. Do you also have chips on the seat beside you so you can snack while driving?

Obviously, you are a very special person and above any rules of law or responsible-driver behavior. When will you stop? Not until you’ve hit someone or something, I guess. Watch out for this guy or his female counterparts. Women are just as irresponsible in their tank-like SUVs which must give them a sense of invulnerability.

For the rest of us the path forward is clear. Steer clear of anyone on a cell while driving and you may just save your life or the life of someone you love.

Shouldn’t care manufacturers be working on something to kill a cell call except for emergencies? Oh, I suppose, people who can’t find something in their home would find this type of call an “emergency.” You have heard about those less-than-stupid 911 calls about pizza delivery or some such, haven’t you? Engage brain before using cell and consider the consequences.

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