The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

March 14, 2013

Drive or drive not, there is no texting

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — For most of us, driving is like breathing, we don’t think about it, we just do it.

And we do it a lot. The average American male spins the odometer to the tune of 16,550 miles per year, while U.S. females put 10,142 miles on their cars each 12 months.

We drive to work, to school, to church, to the mall, to the restaurant, to the grocery store, to the doctor, to the movies, to anywhere our little hearts desire.

And if we have kids, we drive even more — taking them to soccer practice, dance, baseball, karate, what have you.

Driving is a big responsibility. It involves guiding two tons of metal, rubber, glass and plastic at speeds of up to 70 miles per hour, or 75 on the turnpike (since, of course, we never, ever, speed) and doing so in close proximity to other two-ton behemoths, some of which are piloted by idiots.

Face it, we’re the only ones in the world who really know how to drive, aren’t we? All other drivers are mouth-breathers with only the most tenuous grasp on reality.

How else can you explain the sight of someone driving a big, honkin’ SUV down the road with one hand holding a cell phone, the other a venti, skinny, half-caf, iced white chocolate mocha latte with a splash of hazelnut, and grasping the steering wheel with their knees?

That’s not smart. At 40 mph, the speed limit on many of our city’s busiest cross streets, if you take your eyes off the road for one second, your vehicle will travel 58.7 feet, basically on its own.

A lot can happen in one second, much less in the span of more than 58 feet.

And how long is a second? One-thousand one.

That’s it, and if you were behind the wheel right now and traveling 40 mph (which I pray you are not), you would have just covered 58 feet.

That’s more than enough time to crash into another vehicle, or to hit someone’s pet, or, God forbid, a child.

And that’s just one second.

Every second your attention wanes while you are behind the wheel and driving at 40 miles per hour, you will have driven another 58 plus feet.

Which brings us to texting.

Who among us can compose and send a text in less than one second?

OK, let me rephrase that, how many of us over the age of 14 can compose and send a text in less than one second.

Speaking for myself, it would take me three or four minutes to text the word “cat.”

I could drive from Enid to Waukomis in the length of time it would take me to text a complete sentence.

In Oklahoma, it is illegal for anyone holding a learner’s or intermediate permit to text and drive. For the rest of us, however, it is perfectly legal.

It shouldn’t be.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, a driver who is texting is 23 times more likely to be involved in a traffic accident than one who is not.

The USDOT figures the average text message takes five seconds.

At 40 mph, that means the average texter’s attention will be on their phone, rather than the road, for 290 feet, or nearly the span from goal line to goal line on a football field.

Texting and driving is banned in 39 states, while talking on cell phones while driving is illegal in 10, as well as the District of Columbia.

Both should be illegal in all 50 states, D.C. and overseas territories.

What is so important that it can’t wait until you get from here to there?

The exception should be in case of emergency, like if a crazed weasel happens to fly in your car window and begin chewing on your lower lip while you are driving.

Then, a quick call to 911 would be allowed, within limits.

If you’re going to drive that rolling hunk of metal you park in your garage every night, get to it.

If you’re going to talk on the phone or text OMGs and LOLs to your BFF, stay home or pull over.

Otherwise the next text concerning you may look like this :(.



Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at jmullin@enidnews.com.