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Printed from the Charlotte Observer -
Posted: Wednesday, Apr. 25, 2012

Pledge to stop texting while driving
PUBLISHED IN: VIEWPOINT From Joshua Bassinger, Adrienne Hartman, Laura Tillistrand and Andrea Young – graduate school students and concerned Charlotte residents:

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We’ve all done it. You are sitting in traffic when Related Images your cell phone chimes, and as the light turns green, you feel compelled to grab your phone to check the new message. In today’s hyperconnected society, we feel an inherent need to always stay in contact. Texting while driving is arguably the most dangerous form of distracted driving because everyone else is doing it, too. A 2009 Car & Driver study found that a driver travelling 70 miles per hour took four feet to react while legally drunk, 36 feet while reading a text and 70 feet while sending a text. Clearly, our desire to connect is overriding common sense. The risks of texting while driving are getting more attention. In the Feb. 21 episode of the TV show Glee, Quinn Fabray, a character who’s popular and smart, was involved in a horrific texting-whiledriving accident. After a short hiatus, the show returned April 10 with Quinn in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the waist down. Distracted driving is an epidemic, and whether we want to face the facts or not, the danger lives and looms in our inability to disengage. While Glee drove the issue home, we need to realize that REAL people are affected by our choices to text and drive. Brittany Johnson, an East Gaston High School student, was killed in a car accident almost three years ago. Her car was found wrapped around a tree like a horseshoe, and her phone displayed a half-written text to her mother. Despite the morose consequences, we’ve seen bright spots. Last week, Eric Shaw, a CharlotteMecklenburg Schools high school senior, presented his senior project at the CMS Performance Learning Center near uptown. He has begun a campaign to deliver the message that cell phones and steering wheels should never go hand in hand. Shaw’s passion offers hope for a generation who learned to text long before they learned to drive. The education that Shaw and others are striving for has a long way to go. We spent three shifts riding along with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officers to hear from the front lines about drivers who text. One officer said as many as three of every 10 drivers could be texting, depending on the time of day. Another who patrols in the evening said drivers on their phones “light up like Christmas trees” against the darkness. A third officer recounted watching a driver bounce off the curb as she was typing on her phone. These incidents make it easier for CMPD to enforce the law, but we shouldn’t need to rely on the law to make choices about our safety. Most of us would scoff at the idea of chugging a beer behind the 10/4/2012

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wheel, but we don’t hesitate to pick up our phones the second we hear that ping indicating an incoming message. April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and there is a movement here in Charlotte to stop texting while driving. It sounds simple enough, but will likely take a conscious effort for many of us. Help make Charlotte’s roadways a little safer in April. Sign the pledge to drive text-free. Subscribe to The Charlotte Observer. 10/4/2012

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