What are we turning into?
There’s an old joke I heard that was told about an Old Testament story. Perhaps you are familiar with the Genesis 19 tale of Lot and his family fleeing the city of Sodom due to rampant iniquity.
Two angels escorted them with a warning not to look back at Sodom during its destruction.
A Sunday School teacher taught the lesson to her young students by saying that Lot’s wife did it anyway. She stopped, turned and watched before she was immediately turned into a pillar of salt.
Before the teacher could make her point about letting things go, or being obedient, a young boy spoke up. “That’s nothing, ma’am. The other day my mom was driving and she looked back and turned into a telephone pole.”
Which brings us to the State of Texas, one of just four where it is still legal to text and drive, at least in some circumstances according to Distraction.gov. Arizona, Montana and Missouri are the others.
It is high time to wake up to common sense. We need to make it illegal under any circumstances to be driving and texting, and the fines should be severe. In California and Virginia, it costs just $20 if you’re caught thumbing or speed-reading. Others range from $50 to several hundred, though a few states have put some teeth into the consequences.
Utah, for example, says $750 and 90 days behind bars. That’ll get your attention. Arkansas fines the guilty $100 and then places them in jail for 10 days. Still, Alaska slaps a $10,000 fine and one year in prison.
In Texas, Rep. Tom Craddick, R-Midland, has filed a bill banning texting behind the wheel during four sessions. While some 90 cities have some form of ban on the practice, it appears to be gaining steam once again.
House Bill 62, known as the Alex Brown Memorial Act, is named for a 17-year old killed in 2009 when she crashed her truck while texting. If passed, it would be a criminal offense to read, write or send an electronic message while operating a motor vehicle, unless the vehicle is stopped.
It could become law in Sept. 1, 2017 if lawmakers pass it and Gov. Greg Abbott signs it.
Even though statistics show that 14 percent or 483 of the 3,534 traffic deaths in Texas in 2014 were caused by such a distraction, some defend the practice. In 2011 a move passed the Legislature before then-Gov. Rick Perry vetoed the proposal. He said it was “micromanaging the behavior of adults.” So
The Huffington Post reported that a motor vehicle crash is 25 percent more likely if the driver is using a cell phone. They said drivers’ eyes are off the road from 2-5 seconds to send a text message, with the guiltiest age group being 21-24. Nationally, 11 teenagers die every day as a result of texting.
Get this, according to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey, women use their phones while driving more than men, and also engage in other activities; grooming, applying make-up, and using other devices like GPS or sound systems, more than men.
What impacts safety the most are three components; visual – eyes are not fully on the road, manual – hands are not on the wheel when the vehicle is in motion, and cognitive – the mind is not focused on driving due to understanding messages or sending them on devices.
Passing this law is overdue. We can all live without typing and reading while navigating 4,000 pounds of moving steel at high velocity. We are dying without the law.
Mark Warde is managing editor of The Ennis Daily News.