Although implementing anti-texting-and-driving laws are important, San Marcos residents and students need to make the correct moral decision not to text and drive for the overall safety of the community.
Texting and driving is distracting and as harmful as driving under the influence of alcohol. In a June, 25 2009 New York Times article with a report by Car and Driver magazine, the reaction rate of a distracted driver texting on a phone is nearly twice as slow as a drunk driver.
The statistics for texting while driving are staggering. A July 29, 2009 Virginia Tech Transportation Institute report indicated that texting while driving puts drivers at 20 times more risk than drivers who do not use a phone in the same situation. In all, a Jan. 12, 2010 National Safety Council press release included an estimated 28 percent of at least 1.6 million crashes each year involve cell phone use and texting.
According to an Oct. 29 Texas Tribune article, Texas is one of 11 states without a statewide law on cellphone use and driving, and Gov. Rick Perry vetoed such a law in the last legislative session.
However, cities have decided to adopt laws to curb texting and driving. A certain limit to cellphone use while driving has been implemented in 28 cities in the state. In nearby cities of Austin and San Antonio, some degree of cellphone use while driving is banned, and penalties for breaking the law include fines of up to $500. In San Marcos specifically, texting and driving is illegal in school zones.
Laws like these may be difficult to enforce if not carried out into a full ban. KPRC Houston reported in a Nov. 8 article that El Paso, with a complete ban on cellphone use while driving, has issued more than 15,000 tickets in less than two years. Austin, on the other hand, with a ban on only texting while driving, issued about 16 tickets per month. This is mainly because texting while driving is difficult to prove. Therefore, the law in place is a moral obligation that we, as drivers, need to fulfill as a part of the community. We need to learn from the information and choose wisely. One person who takes the small step to avoid texting and driving could make a huge difference.
Fortunately, the number of crashes involving texting while driving has decreased from about 200,000 in 2010 to an estimated 100,000 in 2011, as indicated by statistics from the same National Safety Council press release. According to the AAA Foundation’s 2011 Traffic Safety Culture Index survey, 87 percent of drivers support laws against reading, typing or sending text messages or emails while driving.
As much as people disdain texting while driving they occasionally do not follow through on their beliefs. According to the same survey, one-third of drivers admitted to texting or emailing while driving in the prior month. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website states that more than 15 people are killed and more than 1,200 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver each day.
In a college town with heavy pedestrian traffic, drivers need to be aware of their surroundings at all times. It is especially important to increase awareness while driving because of massive ongoing construction projects, the constant inflow of cars on major roads and the amount of local hit-and-run fatalities that have occurred in the last three months. The consequence of reading a text while driving could be fatal.
— Ravi Venkataraman is a creative writing master’s student.