While driving, refrain from cell phone use

July 31, 2011 at 2:31 a.m.

The Victoria Advocate will be publishing guest columns from students attending Victoria College. These columns will appear occasionally during the next few weeks. We welcome letters and columns from all students.

Cell phones play an important role in everyday life, which the majority of Amerians use to communicate on a day-to-day basis.

Not only is a cell phone used for talking, but also for text messaging. It has become a very popular source of communication for all generations, especially for young adults.

Text messages are very easy to compose and send, but there is a time and place to do it. Texting while driving is not one of those times, and it has become a major distraction for drivers. This should not be a focus or a priority at all.

Text messaging while driving is very dangerous, and it has caused many accidents, as well as stronger consequences for those accidents, brought more awareness to states to pass laws prohibiting phone use while driving, and has made cellular providers look into creating applications to block calls and texting when one is driving.

Texting while driving also is known as distractive driving. There can be other distractions when behind the wheel, such as a crying baby or trying to find a good radio station to listen to, but this has become more popular over the years and has caused numerous fatalities.

This distraction resulted in 16,141 deaths between the years 2001 and 2007. In an online article by Stephen Rampur, on Buzzle.com, there are facts and statistics on distractive driving.

It is known that texting while driving is more dangerous than talking on the phone, and it contributes to an increase in the possibility of an accident by 23 times.

A crash can take place in about two to three seconds, and the driver's reaction time lessens significantly. In 2009, a law passed in Utah that offenders now can face up to a 15-year-prison sentence, and the fatality is considered to be manslaughter.

According to an article by Matt Richtel, in the New York Times (August 2009), studies show that talking on a cell phone while driving is just as risky as driving with a .08 blood alcohol level, and driving while texting is at least twice as dangerous.

Furthermore, many states have been buckling down on passing laws against texting while driving. The new law in Utah penalizes a texting driver who causes a fatality as severely as as a drunken driver who kills someone. Lyle Hillyard, a Republican state senator and a firm supporter of these new measures, said, "It's a willful act. If you choose to drink and drive or if you choose to text and drive, you're assuming the same risk."

Not paying attention is just the same as making irresponsible decisions while driving on the road.

Thirty states have banned text messaging while driving; eight additional states prohibit the activity from novice drivers (those who have had their license for less than a year or under the age of 18), and two states restrict school bus drivers from texting.

Texas has banned the use of hand-held phones and texting in school zones to avoid accidents and distractions, but this subject really needs to be brought to the surface and shined upon for the safety of people worldwide.

Moreover, cellular providers are looking into having applications available to Smartphone customers to help make things safer when tending to what is most important while driving, and that is complete concentration.

T-Mobile is the only cellular phone company to offer the feature at this time for Android customers. The application is called DriveSmart Plus, and it completely blocks calls and text messages from coming in on the phone.

When this service is activated, it routes calls to voicemail and sends an auto respond message for incoming texts. The auto respond message can be customized to inform the person texting that one is driving and will respond when off of the road and it is safe to do so.

The application requires a one-time opt-in subscription and is $4.99 a month, but it is better to be safe than irresponsible if one does not have strong enough willpower to leave the phone alone while driving. It uses GPS technology to identify when one is driving, and the service can be overridden, most often by young drivers, probably, but parents will be alerted by an email of this action.

To sum up, owning a cell phone has become a very important must-have in everyday life, but its capabilities have been abused while on the road. So many accidents can be prevented if the phone were placed on silent or turned off while driving, but it all depends on one's willpower. Although T-Mobile is the only company to offer the DriveSmart Plus service, other providers are looking into this, if not other applications as well.

Drivers' main focus is to be alert and concentrate on the safety of themselves and the lives of others while driving, not text messaging.

Safety should be the requirement, not an option.

Mary Ann Perez lives in Victoria and attends Victoria College where she is working on an associate degree of applied science. Her major is physical therapy assistant.



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