OMG: Texting while driving no cause to LOL
(Note: This editorial was awarded third place for opinion from the NWPA Journalism Competition. It is reprinted from the Feb. 19 issue of The Panther Press.)
Richard Tatum, an 18-year-old teenager, experienced a horrible tragedy. “I don’t even remember hitting the truck because I was looking down at my phone when I hit it,” he said. “You just look down to text, look up to drive, look down to text. It’s not hard to do, so everybody does it,” he added. His decision to text and drive resulted in a crushed pelvis, hip and knee, two torn ligaments and a chipped knee-cap.
His story can be found on the Connect With Kids Web site, a site dedicated to helping parents and teachers raise resilient kids with character. Although most teens will tell you how easy it is to text and drive, the teens that have been in an accident will tell you how lucky they are to be alive. But some don’t get to have a second chance. It’s not right to put other lives in danger. Some may argue that it’s not a big deal, but the fact is that texting while driving can lead to deaths.
When local teenagers were questioned about their opinion on texting and driving, most responded almost the same as the others. SHS graduate Greg Byham, age 20 said, “I text while driving because I talk to people all the time, and I don’t like to miss out on anything important happening.” When Andrea Poduszlo, a current senior at Cochranton High School was asked why she drives and texts, she said, “I always text. I don’t really have a reason; it’s just a bad habit.” She added, “It can be dangerous, not paying attention to the road and other drivers, I wouldn’t want anyone to get hurt.”
Over 60 percent of teens in the United States admit to risky driving, and half of those that admit to risky driving also admit to text messaging behind the wheel. There were 1,298 cell phone related accidents during 2008 in Pennsylvania. Of those accidents, nine resulted in death. Although Poduszlo and Byham agreed that it’s easy, both said that they would never want to cause any harm to anyone and would not want to live with that everyday of their lives if something happened. In the beginning of January, the city of Erie passed a new local law that was to prevent anyone from using hand-held cell phones while driving a vehicle. Furthermore, in January of 2010, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives passed a ban that includes any interactive wireless communication device. Exceptions will only apply to operators of emergency vehicles and volunteer emergency responders who are responding to an emergency.
I strongly agree with these newly established laws and would like to see a flat-out ban on texting nation-wide with stiff penalties for drivers who endanger the lives of others with their irresponsible behavior. Teenagers who are just learning how to drive don’t need to develop bad habits that could result in tragedy for both themselves and others on the road. Unfortunately, I fear that many teens will just ignore the law until they have an experience like Richard Tatum or know someone first-hand who has been involved in an accident due to distracted driving. Tatum was lucky. He survived to tell his story. The next time you pick up your phone while you are behind the wheel, your luck may run out. Don’t get caught up in an OMG moment.