Editorial: Texting your life away

It takes only a few seconds to send a text message. It takes a whole lot less than that to kill someone with your car.

The Arizona Senate, for the second time, voted down a ban on texting while driving on state highways Tuesday.

But according to a study by Car and Driver, driving while texting (DWT) caused slower reaction times than driving impaired by alcohol.

We all know drinking and driving should never be mixed — way too many people have died unnecessarily because someone didn’t take the time to sober up before getting behind the wheel. It is against the law; we know it and support it. Why? Because when we get on the road at 2 a.m. Saturday, we want to know people who are drinking are off the streets.

But most of us read or send text messages or e-mails while we’re in our cars, even when, as Car and Driver reported, “the [driving while] texting results are so horrendously bad.”

Why is it that we are so wrapped up in texting culture that we choose to put not only ourselves, but others, in danger even more so than when we drink alcohol?

Is it because we think we text safely? The studies show that we don’t.

DWT is illegal in the city of Phoenix and for bus drivers around Arizona, but for safety’s sake, the ban should be expanded.

So why doesn’t the Senate agree? Its concern is that the ban would impose too much government regulation. We understand the idea that unnecessary and frivolous legislation is, well, unnecessary and frivolous, but a ban on texting and driving does not fall under that category.

A drinking and driving ban imposes government regulation because the practice is unsafe but so is DWT. So where is the logic in this decision?

Doesn’t legislation aimed at saving lives merit more attention than HB2652, a bill that seeks to prevent attempts to “create a human-animal hybrid?” Yes. It’s a real bill.

Police can cite motorists for reckless driving, and legislation might not do much to change enforcement that is already in place. But it would do something just as important — start to change the mindset.

If teenage drivers are told DWT is illegal, will they be as likely to start the habit? Will they be more afraid of the consequences?

Passing legislation certainly wouldn’t hurt.

As journalists, some of the toughest stories to cover are the deaths that could have been prevented. Reports of students crashing vehicles because they were distracted by incoming or outgoing messages are heartbreaking for the entire community.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 5,870 people died in distracted-driving related accidents in 2008. More than half a million were injured. NHTSA reported that the numbers may not be high enough “since the identification of distraction and its role in the crash by law enforcement can be very difficult.”

One death caused by texting is too much, and no student, adult or child should die because a driver didn’t take the time to pull over to send someone a message.

How many of the texts you send are worth gambling a life? Whether we believe it or not, every time we take out our phone while behind the wheel, we’re making that bet.

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