By on July 23, 2007

crashvictims.jpgIn late June, a 17-year-old driving an SUV in East Bloomfield, New York slammed head-on into a truck, killing her and four other recent high school grads in the car. Police claim text messaging (to friends in a following car) moments before the crash was a contributory factor. "The records indicate her phone was in use," Sheriff Phil Povero said diplomatically. "We will never be able to clearly state that she was the one doing the text messaging." Meanwhile, according to new research by SADD (Students Against Destructive Decisions) and Liberty Mutual Insurance Group, instant and text messaging lead the list as the biggest driving distraction for teens. Seventy-three percent of teens admit to talking on a cell phone while behind the wheel. Where do teens pick up these bad habits? Some 62 percent of high school-aged teens told researchers their parents talk on a cell while driving.

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31 Comments on “Texting and Driving Kills Teens...”


  • avatar
    dean

    As a motorcyclist, I expect to meet my end at the hands of a distracted driver.

    It is obvious that the cell phone industry is lobbying hard against restrictions on cell phone use in moving vehicles because there is absolutely no excuse for this activity to remain legal in most jurisdictions.

  • avatar
    shaker

    Right, Dean — I’ve considered selling my bike becuase of the rampant piloting of vehicles by cell phone blabbers; Texting just scares the bejeezus out of me. (It will get worse before it gets better, because of the lobby that you mentioned.)

  • avatar
    mikey

    What a terrible tragedy, it could have been prevented so
    easily.Cell phone yaking is bad enough but text messaging?

  • avatar
    hal

    i hope the truck driver was ok. Amazing how dumb kids can be – 4 other people in the car and 1 of them couldn’t send a text for the driver?

  • avatar

    On the bus ride to and from work every day, I see people text messaging on cell phones and Blackberries on a regular basis while cruising at 60 or 70 MPH. I also see them reading papers and books, watching DVDs, and doing most anything else you can imagine EXCEPT paying attention to their driving. I'm amazed there aren't even more accidents than there are.

  • avatar
    Megan Benoit

    To be fair, the text message came from her phone — there’s no proof that she typed it in. Which means either she was distracted and typing it in, or she was distracted and telling a friend what to type in for her.

    I’m sure they would have found something else to be distracted with. Bad drivers are bad drivers regardless… it’s not like not having a cell phone with you will suddenly make you a courteous, attentive driver.

  • avatar
    TexasAg03

    On the bus ride to and from work every day, I see people text messaging on cell phones and Blackberries on a regular basis while cruising at 60 or 70 MPH.

    I also see them reading papers and books, watching DVDs, and doing most anything else you can imagine but paying attention to their driving. I’m amazed there aren’t even more accidents than there are.

    I have seen similar things. I used to commute one hour to work, and I have actually seen people surfing the web on a laptop. I could actually see what looked like the ESPN home page on one computer.

    I agree with Megan; some people are just bad drivers and will be no matter what they do or don’t do in the car.

  • avatar
    theSane

    Don’t existing distracted driving rules already cover this? This is why I have my passenger answer the phone or I try to ignore it.

    Locally a teen was browsing her phone for a new ringer. She didn’t realize she was all the way off the road and on the bike trail. The cyclist never new what killed him. She was released with probation.

    This sparked a local debate over cyclists feeling threatened by drivers. There are a lot of drivers that don’t give cyclists the courtesies they should, but there are also a lot of cyclists that jump between the sidewalk and the road, as well as ignore stop signs or bypass backed up traffic by running the yellow line.

  • avatar
    gcmustanglx

    i sometimes have to talk on the phone while driving at my job. Part of the problem with some people is knowing which activity is more important. I pay way more attention to the road over the phone call. If the call is that importatn I will pull over but if not i try to catch the high points while keeping my attention on the road.

  • avatar

    I used to commute one hour to work, and I have actually seen people surfing the web on a laptop. I could actually see what looked like the ESPN home page on one computer.

    My favorite was the guy who went buzzing past us on I-75 one morning with a laptop on the passenger seat, playing a porn video. A few miles down the road, traffic had to slow down. The same guy had rear-ended someone.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    This is why cell phone use in vehicles is banned in the UK (you can use hands free but even thats up for debate now), when will the US join the band and ban usage for safety reasons, its not about your constitutional right of free speech as i’ve heard people argue, but peoples constitutional right to life. I see too many people using them on my commute to work and not paying enough attention to the road, i’ve seen accidents here because of that. unbelievable.

  • avatar
    benders

    Of course, this isn’t an issue until 5 pretty teenage girls die because of it.

    Although I’m not a teen any more, I have texted while driving before. I don’t anymore after I almost ran a red light.

    And I also expect to meet my end on my bike (or my pre-airbags car) because someone isn’t paying close enough attention. I’ve avoided more than one accident by anticipating other driver’s boneheaded moves.

    But the whole trend of drivers not paying attention makes me wonder if the cars they’re driving have anything to do with it. If you’re driving a car that tries to make your drive as unobjectionable as possible, will that make you less attentive?

  • avatar

    It isn’t just teen drivers that are distracted by texting, teen pedestrians aren’t doing too well in that area either. I’ve lost count of the number of texting teen twits I’ve witnessed that have just about killed themselves walking into traffic without bothering to look for approaching cars.

    Combine the quietness of a rolling hybrid with some nitwit texting his friend that it’d be “GR8 2 C U L8R” as he crosses a suburban street and it’ll take more than a pedestrian friendly hood to save his sorry ass.

    And speaking of ass, Mr. Williams, the porn watching driver had “rear-ended someone,” but what happened with his car?

  • avatar
    rpn453

    I’m just glad they hit a truck instead of a family in a small car.

  • avatar

    BostonTeaParty: This is why cell phone use in vehicles is banned in the UK (you can use hands free but even thats up for debate now), when will the US join the band and ban usage for safety reasons…

    Many states have enacted laws regarding the use of cell phones while driving:

    Five states (California, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Washington) and the District of Columbia have enacted a jurisdiction-wide ban on driving while talking on a handheld cellular phone. Washington state has also enacted a jurisdiction-wide ban on text messaging while driving.

    Fifteen states (Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia) and DC restrict the use of cellular phones by young drivers.

    See this IIHS site for the full list of various laws as of May 2007.

  • avatar
    miked

    I’ve seen two different people playing a flute in a car (with both hands!). The first time it happened, I was stunned and didn’t believe what I saw. The guy was passing me on the left and I looked over and he was playing the flute! I told my wife, but she didn’t turn around in time and she didn’t believe that it was possible. About a month later we were stopped at a red light and a lady passed along in front of us and she was playing a flute! At least my wife saw it and didn’t think I was crazy this time.

  • avatar

    the porn watching driver had “rear-ended someone,” but what happened with his car?

    Let’s just say that if he’d been driving a Probe, the irony would have been complete.

  • avatar
    dean

    The Comedian: your user name is well chosen.

    benders: I’m with you 100%. Tragedies occur every single day, but the ones that make the front page inevitably occur to beautiful young girls. Somehow the tragedy is worse if you’re hot. Forget the fact that the less-attractive kid that bought it might just find a cure for AIDS, or find a single unifying theory of physics, they just don’t rate.

  • avatar
    brownie

    I think most people just aren’t paranoid enough. Every time I find myself doing something distracting in the car (answering a call, changing the radio station, looking at the gps, etc.) I feel like there’s a good chance I’ll kill myself or someone else and I can actually feel the fear of such an event, which feeds an adrenal response and puts me into a very primal mode of self-preservation. And yet I see other drivers doing MUCH more distracting things while moving (making calls, scrolling through their iPods, programming their gps, etc.) for extended periods of time. The only thing I can conclude is that they never feel the physical response to the danger of the situation, which implies that they don’t think they are in danger, which means they aren’t able to imagine all of the bad things that could happen to them when not paying attention to the road.

    Am I the only one who has this physical response to distraction?

  • avatar
    Redbarchetta

    I second rpn453. I have been nearly killed too many times on my motorcycle because of cell phone drivers to have any sympathy for the teens, for there parents yes. If your life doesn’t matter that much to you that you would ride around in a 2 ton lethal weapon not paying the tiniest attention then why should I care!
    Next cellphone blabbing person trying to run me down while I am riding my motorcycle may find themselves with a face full of lead.

  • avatar
    BostonTeaParty

    Glenn, fair enough. Just never enough cops to stop these numpties when you need them. Michigan needs to really pull its finger out again, at least they’ve done it in detroit but that led to uproar.

  • avatar
    theSane

    I second rpn453. I have been nearly killed too many times on my motorcycle because of cell phone drivers to have any sympathy for the teens, for there parents yes.

    I have had more close calls with moms dropping their kids off at school and then rushing to work. A few where a mother was counting the money in her bank envelope after leaving the bank drive through on her way to drop her kids off at school.

    I think cell phones are just the current commonly complained about distraction while driving. Our attention must always remain on the road, not our lunch, cellphone, radio station, or kids fighting in the back seat. If we are going to make changes to the law, I believe we should target all forms of distracted driving, not just the fad of the day.

  • avatar

    Of course, this isn’t an issue until 5 pretty teenage girls die because of it.
    -&-
    Tragedies occur every single day, but the ones that make the front page inevitably occur to beautiful young girls. Somehow the tragedy is worse if you’re hot.

    Whether it’s a young man killed in a drive-by shooting in say, New Haven, or five young girls killed in a car accident in New York state, it must be brutally heartbreaking for parents–who have every expectation that their children will outlive them–to see them die at such a young age.

  • avatar
    mel23

    I was nearly killed driving a little CRX a couple of years ago by a young woman who was reading her map. I managed to slow just a little but enough to avoid being T-boned. Her vehicle passed just in front of mine and I hit her about the B-pillar. If I’d been 6 feet farther down the road I’d have been killed. If I’d have been driving my larger van and been 1 foot farther along, I’d have T-boned her in the driver’s door.

    A married couple in their 60’s were killed a few days ago on their motorcycle near here by a female who drifted over the line. The driver at fault said she didn’t know what happened. Maybe I’m a little sick, but I say good riddance to drunks and other dangerous drivers when they are wiped out due to their deadly behavior. Better them than someone else who happened to be in the wrong place when the violator came along.

  • avatar

    BostonTeaParty:
    “…when will the US join the band and ban usage for safety reasons, its not about your constitutional right of free speech….”

    No its about the constitutional right of states to have the power to regulate and enforce those rights which are not reserved for the federal government.

    Its a state by state issue not a federal government issue.

  • avatar
    ihatetrees

    Like others have said, the problem with distracted driving is only going to get worse. And it’ll have to get much worse before the outrage overpowers the special interests who have a stake in the current (lax) system.
    Enforcement could help.
    It is possible to knab these people if today’s revenue collection agents traffic cops focused on safety. Also, use current video and tracking technologies. (An unmarked cop van with 10 cameras could knab 20 people an hour in rush hour traffic (where enforcement is currently zero). And the legal system needs to make the penalties stern enough.

    Am I moronic to think it reasonable to REQUIRE a year in prison for those whose driving error directly causes the death of another???

    And yes – if an 80 year old great-grandma turns left and bug-splats a motorcyclist – send her away. A few examples like that and maybe marginal drivers would learn to behave better or remove themselves from the road.

  • avatar
    Dynamic88

    I do not now, nor have I ever, had a cell phone. Still, I don’t think talking (as distinct from texting) on them is any more dangerous than dozens of other things.

    I’ve see women putting on makeup, people fidling with the radio/CD player, people trying to peer at their 5 inch video navigation screen, stamping out matches they’ve dropped, people looking in their review mirror talking to their kids for 30 – 45 seconds, people reaching for something on the backseat, rumaging through the glovebox, reading a book propped on the steering wheel, people with the power seat adjusted to the lazy-boy position, and even taking pictures. I even saw one guy getting a BJ from his girlfriend.

    I think holding a phone to the side of one’s head while looking at the road is quite far down the list of distractions.

    They can’t make computer guided cars soon enough.

  • avatar
    Thagomizer

    They can’t make computer guided cars soon enough.

    If something is made to be idiot-proof, someone will make a better idiot.

    While death is always tragic, think about it: That’s five texting girls taken off the road. Five careless drivers who won’t be driving SUVs and endangering others on the road while blabbing away on their cells. With fewer poorly-skilled drivers off the road, driving will be safer for the general masses.

  • avatar
    LoserBoy

    And it’ll have to get much worse before the outrage overpowers the special interests who have a stake in the current (lax) system.

    I call b.s. Who are these mysterious “interests” who want people driving like maniacs? (It certainly isn’t the insurance companies; their interest lies in never having to pay out a claim.)

  • avatar
    andyinsdca

    Ric Romero reports, you decide.

  • avatar
    leighzbohns

    @ thesane: “…but there are also a lot of cyclists that jump between the sidewalk and the road, as well as ignore stop signs or bypass backed up traffic by running the yellow line.”

    As a frequent bicycle commuter, I have to say that one of the advantages of bicycling is that you can lane split and jump traffic jams. I’m not forcing you to sit in traffic in your car, so don’t get mad at me for taking advantage of the situation. I recognize that stop sign running is a problem, and often I do come to a full stop, but when mom is paranoid of running me over, is talking on a cell phone, and is just sitting there, I’m gonna take her damn turn and just go.

    @ Dynamic88:

    As someone who has driven while talking on a cell phone, it is severely distracting, even on a straight stretch of freeway, I’ve ended up in easily avoidable situations because I let me attention lapse because I was talking on the phone. No cell phones for me.

    Also, as I observe other drivers, about 90% of the ridiculous dangerous idiots going 10 under, swerving, and going too slow are blathering away on the phone. The rest are old, drunk, or both. I think that the penalty for talking on the phone while driving should be EXACTLY THE SAME as the penalty for driving while drunk, because the effect is pretty much identical.

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