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Are you as addicted to your crackberry (aka Blackberry) as I am? Commutes that were once a wasteful layover between a long day at the office and playing with my kids became a time to tie up loose ends — I could respond to e-mails and texts which may have slipped through the cracks during the day.

For a short while, my car became almost like a second office for me during my commute. I would respond to text messages about segment ideas from colleagues and grocery store requests from my kids; I couldn’t resist texting and e-mailing from my front seat at red lights. However, I realized I had a problem when I caught myself checking my Blackberry, not only while I was stopped, but sometimes while I was still driving. I’d steal glances to check responses even when my attention should have been on the road. I had to put the brakes on my text messaging.

After learning about countless accidents caused by reckless driving related to text-distraction and finding myself a guilty party, this gal has silenced her phone for the commute. People shouldn’t be conducting business from their cars. Driving is an activity, not an inconvenience in our busy lives. There are enough distractions that we can’t anticipate, so why not eliminate the ones we can?

The issue of whether or not text messaging should be sanctioned while driving has been brought to the forefront after a tragic car accident in New York, allegedly caused by reckless driving due to text messaging. Recent high school graduate Bailey Goodman and her four friends all died in a fatal car crash in Bloomfield, N.Y. this summer. Goodman was driving her fellow cheerleaders to her parent’s vacation home when her Chevy Trailblazer swerved into oncoming traffic. It smashed into a tractor trailer and burst into flames killing all five girls. County police cited several possible factors for the crash, including driver inexperience, driving five miles above the speed limit and excessive cell phone use. Goodman had not only been talking on the phone throughout the trip, but there was also a succession of text messages on Goodman’s phone, less than 75 seconds before the crash. We may never know whether Goodman was actually reading and writing the text messages, or whether one of her friends was doing it for her. Regardless, the presence of texting in such close proximity to the crash seems too coincidental to ignore.

According to a survey from AAA and Seventeen Magazine, in July 2007, 61 percent of teens ages 16 to 17 admit to risky driving habits. Of this group of risky drivers, 46 percent say they text message while driving. That means, in total, 28 percent of teens surveyed admit to sending text messages while driving — 28 percent too many! Texting while driving should illegal. It should be prohibited for everyone — not just inexperienced drivers whose driving capabilities are especially vulnerable to distraction due to their lack of practice behind the wheel. Even seasoned drivers (including me) would benefit from eliminating the temptation to text. Text messaging is visually and mentally distracting. When you’re texting, your eyes and mind are simply not on the road. While more experienced drivers may be able to figure out what to do in an on-road emergency quicker than a novice driver, we would all benefit from eliminating this potential risk in the first place.

Some states, including New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Washington D.C., do have laws against talking on a hand held cell phone while driving. (California has passed a similar law effective July 2008.) However, only one state so far has implemented a text message ban while driving — Washington. There, those who use cell phones without hands-free accessories or who send text messages while driving face hefty fines. (New Jersey has passed a similar law now being reviewed by the governor.)

While so far only one state has actually banned texting, this is likely to change once the laws catch up with today’s technology trends. It’s likely that the only reason texting was left out of the ban in the states that already have cell phone prohibitions is because when those laws were passed text messaging had not yet become the phenomenon it is today. Today, text messaging may even be more popular (especially among youngsters) than actual phone calls. I don’t know about yours, but my kids send texts at lightning speed in a different language than I’m able to comprehend! (OMGURMBFFILYSM= Oh my gosh you are my best friend I love you so much)

Senator Carl Marcellino (D-N.Y.) has taken a step in the right direction. He has called for a bill similar to that of Washington’s. It would prohibit writing, sending or reading text messages while driving. Typing a witty, typo-free message in “text-tongue” while paying attention to traffic signals and other drivers is too much to expect our minds to manage, even for the greatest of multi-taskers — sorry Oprah.

Those who oppose banning texting while driving argue that text messaging is no more dangerous than eating or putting on makeup — neither of which are likely to ever be prohibited. However, while certain distractions are inevitable, some distractions can be limited. Text messaging really requires focus and visual attention, whereas changing the radio or applying makeup utilizes less mental energy.

Driving while distracted (by anything) is dangerous. People are not only jeopardizing their own lives but they’re also risking the lives of everyone else on the road. A study by AAA shows that any distraction that takes your eyes off the road for more than two seconds doubles your risk of a crash.

Now I know it’s impossible to legislate away every distraction, and impossible to enforce every sanction perfectly — but less texting and driving can really save lives. So, please, the next time you’re driving — PRACTICE SAFE TEXT — abstain!

Sources

• Woman plummets onto subway tracks while carelessly texting
Text-messaging leads to crash
Text-message ban for drivers mulled
Woman killed by teenage driver who was sending text messages at 70mph
Washington State Makes Text-Messaging On The Road Illegal; Other States Consider Legislation
Life, Liberty, and Text Messaging!
ELLIS HENICAN COLUMN - NEWSDAY- July 18, 2007 “THE PLAN: DON'T BE DRIVEN TO DISTRACTION”

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Lis Wiehl joined FOX News Channel as a legal analyst in October 2001. To read the rest of Lis's bio, click here.