Time to send all texting drivers stronger message

June 15, 2012 

There was a time when it was cool to drink and drive. Guys would brag about how plastered they were on the way home from a party.

For the most part, that's a thing of the past -- along with the idea that smoking is cool or seat belts are optional.

These changes have been slow in coming.

It has taken decades of time for people to adjust their mindset. And, even with our new enlightened outlook, the police still are issuing DUI's and seat belt violations. It's a problem that we can make better but we have yet to make it go away.

There has been a huge push to educate the public about the dangers of texting and driving. Search "texting and driving" on YouTube and you'll see some of the efforts.

Here is a link to a one of them. Be warned, it is graphic: Texting while Driving U.K. Ad

It comes down to this. Everyone knows that driving distracted dramatically increases the odds for an accident, but people either think they are too important to be offline at any time or they think they are the exception. "It's OK for me to text because I'm a better driver/texter than the next guy."

But the statistics are high for texting drivers and headed in the wrong direction. We know how to run a campaign to make social pariahs out of people who insist on anti-social behaviors like drunken driving. It's time to use that knowledge to quell distracted driving.

But because that will take time, it makes sense to fight technology with technology.

How about an app that forces your phone into airplane mode when it's in motion? Or something that causes your engine not to start when the phone is on (not unlike the court-ordered "blow and go" ignition interlock).

We are not the first ones to toss these ideas around. Some of these solutions (or even better ones) are already on the drawing board.

One Pacific Northwest National Laboratory manager, Mike Watkins, already has derived a mathematical method that can discern between when someone is texting from the living room and when someone is texting and driving.

We have enough techies in the Mid-Columbia that this could be the center of the wheel that stops this dangerous habit.

And for those of us that aren't going to write computer code or redesign automobiles, there are a few old-fashioned things you personally can do to join in the battle.

For starters, turn off your phone when you get behind the wheel so you won't be tempted. Have enough faith in your own self-worth to believe that returning that message can wait for 10 minutes. Addictions are hard to break, but we believe you can do it.

Second, refuse to take calls or answer texts from people that you know are on the road. And gently remind (or chide, if you wish) the guilty parties that driving "intexticated" is no longer acceptable.

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