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PRO: Texting is a leading cause of wrecks among younger drivers

By DAVID TEWES
Dec. 26, 2010 at 6:26 a.m.


Even police officers aren't immune to the dangerous driving habits of people texting while driving.

"I actually performed a traffic stop on a young girl who was texting and drifted over into my lane," said Bruce Ure, Victoria's police chief. "The surprising thing is her mother was in the passenger seat."

To add insult to injury, Ure said they both seemed oblivious to the dangers of texting and driving even though they almost hit a police car.

Ure said he thinks the philosophy of controlling texting while driving is prudent. Texting causes delayed reactions, which increases the chance of getting into an accident, he said.

And people pounding away on the cell phone keyboard while operating a motor vehicle is not an occasional problem, he said.

"It's unbelievable the number of people that I see texting," Ure said. "The majority of them are the younger generation. They're the least skilled drivers."

The chief said he thinks today's texting problem is just the tip of the iceberg and one that will only get worse.

Texting is in its infancy and the next generation of messaging devices is going to require more attention, making them even more dangerous, he said.

DeWitt County Sheriff Jode Zavesky said while he thinks it would be difficult to enforce, he believes it would be helpful to have a law prohibiting drivers from texting. Anything that distracts a driver from safely operating a vehicle is dangerous, he said.

"If they're not texting and they're paying attention to what's going on, they're going to be better drivers and there are going to be fewer accidents," Zavesky said.

The sheriff said the problem may be even more widespread than some realize. He said that's partly because people involved in crashes may be more likely to attribute a collision to a deer or hog on the highway than texting.

Zavesky said the odds are about even of a texting ban making it out of the Legislature in 2011.

"I think it's a hot-button item," he said. "A lot of people are stirred up about it."

A National Safety Council fact sheet states drivers who use a cell phone - either handheld or hands-free - are four times more likely to be in a crash, according to a 1997 New England Journal of Medicine examination of hospital records.

The Harvard Center for Risk Analysis reports that the annual cost of crashes caused by cell phone use was estimated at $43 billion in 2003.

Cell phone use contributes to an estimated 25 percent of injury and property damage-only crashes, according to the National Safety Council.

Related story: Con: Regulating texting a freedom issue

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