Friends don't let friends text and drive

EDMONTON (CUP) – You take your eyes off the road for a half a second, reasoning that not much will change in the split second between glances towards your lap. Sitting on the dashboard of your car is your phone, buzzing away with text messages, reflecting the instant communication of the 21st century.

But travelling anywhere above 50 kilometres per hour, it’s surprising how much of your surroundings can change in an instant – and how long your eyes are pulled away from the road.

Texting and driving has become the newest safety concern for police forces around the world.

Canadian provinces are examining the issue in detail and other states, such as the United Kingdom, have already passed strict anti-texting laws.

A woman in the Oxford, U.K. was recently given a 21-month prison term for a collision where she slammed into another car while texting; the driver of the other car was killed instantly.

While her lawyers were trying to claim the sentence was too harsh for a tragic accident, it seems too lenient for someone who was distracted and crushed a parked car she should have been able to see.

Police reports from the scene indicate the parked vehicle would have been visible from as far away as 300 yards back and that road conditions weren’t a major factor.

Laws were enacted in the U.K. a number of years ago, increasing sentencing for people who are distracted by cell phones, either by calling or texting. It’s also a finable offense to operate a phone while driving.

While some provinces are introducing legislation banning the use of handheld mobile phones while driving, it seems like it should be about time Canada as a nation got on the banning bandwagon. Why are drivers allowed to zip up and down our highways, or travel through school zones replete with children, while not paying attention?

What the British have proven, and what Canadians have known for years, is that distracted driving can be just as dangerous as drunk driving.

In both cases, drivers aren’t paying attention as their one-tonne vehicle careens down the road at breakneck speeds.

We have to stop these unsafe habits. As the up-and-coming generation of technology adapters, students are likely the most egregious offenders.

We’ve latched onto the marvel of the messages from the ether, effortlessly making their way around the country and across the globe with little effort and less expense than a phone call.

But driving while texting is akin to trying to write your essay while juggling knives, that are on fire, held in the teeth of jaguars. And those jaguars all have leprosy. Yes, it’s that dangerous.

The New York Times website has a great application in their technology section demonstrating how difficult it can be to text while driving. You have to type a text message with your mouse while changing lanes with the number pad, only hitting 1-6. Even these two menial tasks, when combined, prove incredibly difficult and crashes quickly ensue.

So while it may seem innocent enough to grab that text from your lady-friend while travelling back to the city at 140 kilometers per hour, don’t.

//Justin Bell
Intercamp (Grant MacEwan College)

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© 2011 The Capilano Courier. phone: 604.984.4949 fax: 604.984.1787 email: editor@capilanocourier.com