MATTHEW MORIARTY: Stop Me -- Before I Text and Drive Again
I do about every stupid thing you can do behind the wheel of a car.
I speed. I eat and drink. I cut people off. I speed up to catch the yellow light while making a left turn. I talk on my cell phone. I listen to Prince with the radio cranked up and the windows rolled all the way down.
I drive when I'm tired. I drive when I'm sick. I drive when I'm injured. I drive when someone should have taken my keys away.
I've been known to take my eyes off the road to catch some sugar from some little sweetheart -- and not just at the red lights. Wink wink, nudge nudge. I even, as foolish as it sounds, once read the majority of a paperback while I was driving down to Savannah for a weekend. I was bored.
Now, you may not believe me after the previous few paragraphs, but I've never been in an accident, and I consider myself to be a safe driver. I always wear a seatbelt, and I treat other drivers like cornered wild animals. You never know what they are going to do -- especially if they are from Pinehurst.
There is only one thing I've done behind the wheel of a car that legitimately scares me. Texting.
Years ago, I splurged on the unlimited text message package from Sprint (only $5 a month and well worth it). I love it. Texting allows me to say what I want without wasted words. I no longer must go through annoying small talk in order to ask someone if they want to see a movie. It also allows me a few moments to think about what I want to say in response, which makes for great playful flirting.
Consequently, I've become one of those people who never talk on the phone. If we're not talking face-to-face, we're not talking. I have no problem with this. The problem arises when I'm texting and driving.
I never had a problem with the cell phone distracting me back in the old days of 2005. I suppose I can multi-task well enough to handle a spoken conversation. But when texting, I can't keep it between the lines. It's unbelievable. More than once, I've hit "Send" only to look up and notice that I'm barreling headlong into another vehicle. Only my hyper-human reaction time (and possibly the honking of the other driver) saves me.
Texting is a recent-enough phenomenon that there's not a heck of a lot of research into its effect on drivers. But Nationwide, SADD and some other interested organizations have begun to look into texting. They've made some ominous findings.
One study found that a texting driver is even more dangerous than a drunk driver. The Nationwide poll found that 20 percent of drivers text and drive. A full two-thirds of drivers between the ages of 18 and 24 are guilty of DWT (driving while texting).
It's only going to get worse. How long do you suppose it will be before every car comes equipped with its own laptop computer that combines all driverly distractions (GPS, phone, e-mail, instant messaging, stupid Facebook) into one handy-dandy dashboard mess?
How long do you think it will be before you'll be able to send messages to people in the cars around you? I've long dreamed about the possibilities of giving a fellow driver some friendly advice from the safety of my tin can.
Since text messaging, I see the dark side of such technological advances. Perhaps we, as a species, have finally hit the limits of what we can safely do. Gov. Bev Perdue recently signed legislation that outlaws texting and driving. It goes into effect in December. But I think I'm going to stop today.
Right after I send this last text.
Matthew Moriarty is a former staff writer who lives in Durham. Contact him at email@example.com.
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