The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 3, 2013

Distracted driving can be dangerous, potentially fatal

Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — In 2009, an 18-year-old foreign exchange student involved in a fatal car crash pleaded no contest to misdemeanor negligent homicide in Garfield County District Court.

The student, So Jung Kim, was driving east on West Rupe when her pickup crossed the centerline while she was changing her Mp3 player, striking a pickup driven by Chisholm High School student Jordan Harrell, also 18, head on. He died from his injuries.

Not paying attention behind the wheel is a dangerous — and potentially fatal — habit that we all must break. It’s fitting that April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

“In 2011, more than 3,300 people were killed and 387,000 were injured in crashes that involved a distracted driver,” Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma, said in a press release. “As an advocate for the safety of the driving public, AAA urges motorists to voluntarily stop this dangerous and often deadly behavior.”

Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Texting takes a driver’s eyes away from the road for 4.6 seconds on average, which is the equivalent of driving the length of football field without sight at 55 mph. And a recent AT&T survey shows adults are more likely to text and drive than teens.

That’s nothing to “lol” about.

Unfortunately, efforts to pass a texting ban for Oklahoma drivers failed to gain traction in Legislature due to lack of support from one key lawmaker. Mai said House Speaker T.W. Shannon stood in the way of a very popular drive to outlaw texting in our state.

Several bills banning texting while driving failed this session, but all hope is not lost if an amendment is attached to an existing motor vehicle bill.

Critics cite enforceability concerns, but the same argument could be made for enforcing our safety belt law.

“Thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Guam now ban text messaging by all drivers,” Mai said. “Twelve of these laws were enacted in 2010 alone.”

In texting lingo, it’s time to “GWI” (translation: “get with it”).