Thursday, August 20, 2009

Dangerous distractions

Up front, let me acknowledge that I come from a different generation than those who follow each other with the various forms of social media that have emerged in recent years.

I don't Facebook, MySpace or Twitter, believing that some modicum of privacy should exist in one's life.

However, I realize that the rising generation is wired to the hilt and is enamored with technology that allows us to be active participants in each other's lives. I just think, as with many things, we are a culture of excess.

Take the fact that 14 states have outlawed texting while driving. Critics of the laws say that existing laws cover someone using their cell phone while driving and new legislation is not required.

A recent study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found truck drivers were 23.2 times more likely to have an accident or near-accident when sending text messages on the road.

According to the study, text messaging had the longest duration of eyes off the road (4.6 seconds over a six-second interval). That equates to a driver traveling the length of a football field at 55 mph without looking at the roadway.

Experts will tell you that even talking on a cell phone is a dangerous enterprise and many cities, counties and states have outlawed the practice.

Last time I looked, text messaging requires one to operate a tiny keyboard. How can anyone accomplish that while driving? I have witnessed women applying makeup, people reading the newspaper, food and drink consumption and even some romantic behavior while driving our nation's highways.

But sending a text? What message could possibly be important enough to send while driving?

Our technology now allows us to surf the web on our mobile devices and stay in constant communication with those around us.

Now if only our common sense could keep pace with our technology.

David Fierro is a transportation public relations consultant. He is a former newspaper and magazine editor and worked for both the Florida and Virginia departments of transportation.

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