Smartphones, dumb choices

By Chelsea Vitone

The messages touting the dangers of driving while texting have spread throughout the media, attempting to reach those most at risk; teens and young adults. Glee tackled the issue by condemning primary character Quinn to a wheelchair after texting while driving, not to mention the countless public service announcements warning of the consequences of using cell phones while behind the wheel.  

According to textinganddrivingsafety.com, in 2011 23 percent of car accidents were due to cell phone use the equivalent of 1.3 million crashes. Along with many other habituated behaviors, culprits of cell use while driving can begin to feel comfortable with their ability, which is supported by the statistics from the site that “77 percent of young adults say they are very confident of their ability to text and drive… [and] 55 percent say it’s easy to text and drive.” The truth lies in the accident rates, regardless of high self-confidence.

Verizon, T-mobile, AT&T and Sprint have joined together to prevent texting and driving accidents by joining the Texting and Driving…It Can Wait Campaign. The campaign invites people to make a pledge to refrain from texting and driving. Sprint has gone a step further by creating the Focus on Driving App which states, “If the car’s in driving mode, you should be too. The Drive First app from Sprint sends calls to voicemail and silences email and text alerts when a vehicle reaches 10 mph.” There is also a setting for Sprint phones called Drive First which automatically holds texts and calls while in the car.

When questioned about cell phone use in the car, students responded with a number of explanations and justifications about how and why. The four most recorded justifications for using a cell phone while driving are: only reading a text as opposed to writing one; holding the phone in line with the windshield for improved line of sight; increasing following distance to the car in front of them; and only texting and red light.True to form, UWT Junior Jessyca Yoppolo says that she doesn’t use her phone while driving, but does admit that she will occasionally read a text, but not write one on the road.

Courtney Garinger says she only texts and drives on the rare occasion and she is well aware of the dangers. She grimaces as she admits to using Instagram while driving back roads in the wee hours of the morning after she gets off work. It is said that the minimal amount of time looking at the screen is 5 seconds, and when taking the interstates – as many students at UWT’s commuter campus do — it is important to remember that, according to textinganddrivingsafety.com, at 55 mph that’s like driving the length of a football field without looking at the road.

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