Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Texting and Driving

My kids both drive. Already both of them have been involved in fender-benders when they were driving, and one was a passenger in a serious crash where luckily no one was hurt. Insurance is unbelievable. If you've got teenagers, you know what I'm talking about.

Yesterday's WTOP web site had a really scary story.
WASHINGTON - Text messaging is a "hidden equation" in a number of crashes and is expected to be more of a problem as more people learn to do it while driving, according to American Automobile Association Mid-Atlantic.

A survey of 1,000 16- and 17-year-olds finds 46 percent of them say they send text messages while driving. The AAA-Seventeen Magazine survey also finds 51 percent of teens talk on cell phones while driving.

"It seems to be kind of common place," says John Townsend, spokesman for AAA Mid-Atlantic. "We know it's a norm among teen drivers." AAA: Text Messaging Already a Problem While Driving


Is adolescence a form of mental illness, or what? Why in the world would anybody text message while they're driving?

I saw a guy driving with Harry Potter propped up on the steering wheel the other day, that was dumb. Basically, if you've got the stomach for it (little joke there, I say, a little joke), you can do that without any hands. And he was stopped at a light when I saw him, not that there's any excuse for reading while you're driving. But texting, it seems to me, requires both hands and your eyes, and your attention.
Police in New York believe text messaging played a part in a recent crash that killed five high school grads.

"I think it's hidden equation in a goodly number of crashes," Townsend says, adding that he expects text messaging will become "increasingly problematic."

"Given the busy schedules that all Americans have, we expect to see more and more people foolishly trying to do this maneuver while trying to drive."

Kids these days. When I was their age, we used to have to use the old crank-handed cell phones, remember? You couldn't text-message on those while you were driving, I tell you.

Now here's something to think about.
Townsend predicts more accidents will occur as older drivers start texting.

"All you have to do is take your eyes off the road for three seconds and you double the probability of getting in a crash," Townsend says. "And, at least one of your hands will be off the wheel."

I don't know, I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that "older drivers" might be smarter than that.

Oh, never mind.

This is serious stuff. Talk to your kids about this, OK? Some things just need to be against the rules.


Blogger Orin Ryssman said...

Jim writes,

I don't know, I could be wrong, but I'm guessing that "older drivers" might be smarter than that.

Oh, never mind.

Not this driver...I don't know how to text, and more importantly I have ZERO desire to learn. Driving for myself and defensively against the others on the road that are yakking on their cell phone is all I can safely accomplish.

This is serious stuff. Talk to your kids about this, OK? Some things just need to be against the rules.

Good advice...thanks for the reminder...and just as soon as my almost 18 daughter arrives home (she is working at a Boy Scout Summer Camp just outside of Boston this summer), I will gently and kindly ask her to not text when she drives. I don't think she does now, but I want her to know that it concerns me enough to speak to her about it.

August 01, 2007 4:07 PM  
Blogger Priya Lynn said...

A few months ago a teenage girl smashed into my boyfriend's roomate's parked car. She admitted she was text messaging her boyfriend at the time. We couldn't believe anyone would be such an airhead. Its even more amazing to think that this isn't an isolated phenomenon

August 01, 2007 11:32 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

This was written in the Kansas City newpaper - maybe some parents might find this useful?

Rosen: Making the best of those teen driving years
With two children driving and a third about to get behind the wheel, I’m keenly interested in ways to keep my auto insurance costs in check.

That’s why I was intrigued by a few product ideas and services that arrived in my mailbox after my recent a column about Safeco’s Project Teen program for policyholders, which relies on Global Positioning System satellites to track the driving habits of young, inexperienced drivers.

Like Project Teen, these safe-driving products that I just became aware of could have major implications on how much you pay to insure your student drivers.

For many parents, help can’t come soon enough.

In a survey released in early July by AAA and Seventeen magazine, 61 percent of teens admitted risky behavior while driving, including text-messaging, talking on cell phones and speeding.

Part of the problem, the survey found, is that parents are not aware of what kids are doing when they hand over the keys, and they aren’t enforcing rules about safe driving. In addition, many high schoolers are not taking driver’s education classes anymore, so there are breakdowns in training time behind the wheel. And finally — and this is no surprise — youths may be imitating their parents’ poor driving habits.

According to the Insurance Information Institute, people between ages 15 and 20 have the highest rate of fatal crashes of any age group. Summer is typically the deadliest stretch.

If you’re worried about your young driver, here are some programs that could be beneficial:

•Defensive driving DVD: Instructor Scott Kuhne understands the value of training young drivers to avoid common mistakes.

“As a father, I saw the high rate of accidents that my daughter’s peer group was getting into,” Kuhne said.

Two years ago, he produced a 24-minute DVD called “Road Skillz,” which incorporates real-life situations, professional race car drivers, a wide array of cars, animation, popular music and re-enactments showing defensive driver techniques and what to do in a crisis.

The DVD, which sells for $19.95 at, this year won a National Parenting Publication award.

•Rookie tags: The mother-and-son team of Corinne and Austin Fortenbacher of Spring Lake, Mich., has developed a line of magnets and removable vinyl stickers starting at about $7 that identify novice teen drivers and promote safe habits.

The idea is that “identifying a teen’s driver status allows experienced drivers to anticipate common new-driver mistakes,” Corrinne Fortenbacher said. “We know to be more cautious and forgiving when we realize a teenager is new to the road.”

The products were designed by teens and can be found at

•Tracking your driver: Similar to the “How’s my driving” decal on trucks, now you can slap a sticker on your teen’s car and receive e-mail alerts about bad driving.

For a yearly fee of about $50, and will send you a bumper sticker with the telephone number on it for an unsafe driving hot line. If your child is seen driving recklessly, for example, a person can call the number and leave a message, which will then be instantly e-mailed to the parent.

•Lookin’ Out: That’s the name of a safe teen-driving awareness program launched by Erie Insurance in Pennsylvania to reduce auto crashes and promote safe driving habits. The educational program, created by teens, covers areas such as seat-belt use, speeding or reckless behavior, and the elimination of distractions such as cell phones and loud music.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send e-mail to

August 02, 2007 9:53 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't it interesting that MCPS feels that safety is so important that they must teach condom courses but then they don't provide driver ed classes?

I think more kids die in car accidents every year than from STDs.

Must be something else that makes those darn condom classes so alluring!

August 02, 2007 2:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I took drivers ed a long time ago at MCPS. It's the cost of the vehicles, maintaining and fueling them, building off road driving tracks, and automobile insurance that makes drivers' ed off limits at MCPS (unless of course you want to pay more county tax to cover the costs). Teaching about condoms doesn't require such expensive equipment.

August 03, 2007 10:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Recently in my home town two incidents of texting while driving caused fatalities.

the first happened to a co-worker who was texting a guy she was seeing from another department. After several messages where sent he stopped answering hers. The next morning his accident was on the news, he had lost control of his car on a rain slick road and crashed head on into a tree.

His cell phone had his last unfinished message still on it.

The second occurred just days ago. A seventeen year old driver was texting when he went left of center and hit a motorcyclist from behind who was in the center turn lane waiting to turn.

The texting driver pushed the motorcyclist into an oncoming dump truck, there was basically nothing left of the guy or his bike.

It doesn't matter what age you are, you are an idiot if you text while driving, and if ever found on the road doing so, by the law or by the public. Your sentence should include having your cell phone removed by an Unlicensed Proctologist.

November 08, 2007 5:35 PM  
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