Teen texting toll tops DUI
There’s more news about texting while driving, and, like previous reports, it’s not good. How many studies must conclude that it’s dangerous before the South Carolina Legislature enacts a ban?
The latest study was by Cohen Children’s Medical Center in Hyde, N.Y. It showed that more than 3,000 teen deaths a year are associated with texting while driving. By comparison, around 2,700 teens died in accidents attributed to driving drunk.
State lawmakers years ago recognized the dangers of drunk driving and made it illegal.
Data like those compiled by Cohen researchers should be incentive for South Carolina’s General Assembly to take action against something even more dangerous to teens.
A 2011 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey showed that 43 percent of surveyed teens confessed to texting while driving in the past 30 days.
More recently, CBS News reported on research showing that more than 50 percent of teens admit to texting while driving.
Teens, who may not drink alcohol every day, tend to have their cell phones with them all the time, including when they are behind the wheel. That could be one reason for the statistical difference.
But cell phone proliferation is also reason for curbing the deadly distraction.
Rep. Wendell Gilliard, D-Charleston, has sponsored a bill to ban it. A first offense conviction would bring a $250 fine or 30 days in jail, and would suspend the driver’s license for 30 days. A second offense would cost $1,000 or 60 days in jail, with driver’s license suspended for 60 days, plus two points on the license.
Similar legislative efforts failed last year and the one prior, with lawmakers expressing concern about depriving people of their civil liberties. They also cited the difficulty in enforcing such a ban.
And there is one study that concludes that crashes increase with texting-while-driving bans because people are trying to hide what they’re doing and are even more distracted.
A ban is but one step in a journey towards road safety. It must be accompanied by education and awareness campaigns, and sadly, it will be propelled by heart-breaking stories of teens and adults, babies and grandmothers who die in crashes related to someone texting behind the wheel.
Thirty-nine states now ban texting.
South Carolina should add its name to the tally.