Texting while driving: Let's get a ban
BY JULIE DELCOUR Associate Editor
Sunday, January 27, 2013
1/27/13 at 7:01 AM
When Jeannie Brown found her daughter on Nov. 10, 2009, Alex was barely breathing. She lay there in the grass just beyond the roadway, her body broken, her truck mangled, her cell phone still going off.
The Wellman, Texas, senior had been returning a text message on her way to school when she rolled her pickup and was ejected out the passenger window.
For I know the plans I have for you ... plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. - Jeremiah 29:11-12
The verses came to Jeanne as she waited for the ambulance. She recited them later, as she and her husband sat at the hospital, praying for a miracle that never came. Alex, 17, died that afternoon - forfeiting her life to two deadly behaviors: not wearing a seat belt and texting while driving.
The Browns established the Remember Alex Brown Foundation. They travel the nation, visiting schools, talking abut the dangers of texting while driving. They show students Alex's crushed pickup and ask teens and others to take a pledge not to text while driving. So far 350,000 people have signed that pledge.
Put on hold
Surely the Oklahoma Legislature is aware of stories like that of Alex Brown, and countless other deaths and injuries closer to home involving texting while driving.
Lawmakers took years before they limited use of cell phones - real weapons of mass distraction - by novice drivers. Since 2010, efforts to pass a ban on texting while driving by all drivers have gone absolutely nowhere.
In the meantime, 39 other states, the District of Columbia and Guam all have had the common sense and the interest in public safety to pass such a ban.
Last week, a bill again was introduced to pass a ban. Judging from remarks by Rep. Mike Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, the measure is all but dead on arrival. Ritze essentially argues that the issue is a tired subject already discussed by the Legislature the past three or four sessions, and that he doesn't think there is any more to gain from further debate.
Ritze is ignoring the time and effort it often takes to pass major legislation. Workers comp, mental health parity, early childhood education, tort reform, abortion rights, cockfighting, prison reform, immigration issues, etc., can take years of discussion before the needle moves. Some issues, such as workers comp, continue to this day.
Another argument against a ban is that it infringes on individual rights. Whose rights? The rights of the driver texting? How about all the rest of us who consider it a personal right not to get killed or injured by some moron texting in his pizza order? Our right to safety surely supersedes another's right to text while driving. Consensual sex between adults, by the way, is considered a personal right, too, but most people don't exercise that right in a vehicle that's screaming down a turnpike at 70 mph.
Rep. Curtis McDaniel, D-Smithville, concedes that his proposed ban on texting might be doomed. "The bottom line is that it is dangerous. It is a safety issue. We have to take responsibility for our driving privileges," says McDaniel, who has two strikes against him - he's a Democrat, in the minority, and he's reasonable, also a minority position.
Critics ignore the fact that texting and driving - according to multiple reputable studies - is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. A quarter of all collisions last year could be attributed to the distracted driving practices of texting or talking on a cell phone.
Distracted driving in general accounts for about 80 percent of accidents. In 2011, more than 6,000 people died and more than a half-million others were injured in crashes related to driver inattention.
Texting while driving isn't rare behavior. Forty-seven percent of adult drivers admit to doing it. The number is much higher for the 18-24 group, which is paying the price. Eleven teenagers a day in the U.S., on average, die as a direct result of accidents involving text messaging
When seat-belt laws were passed years ago, some of the same arguments were made as are raised today about banning texting while driving - an infringement on personal liberties, difficult to enforce.
Time and evidence brought the public around and it's now accepted that seat belts are lifesavers. Specific laws and penalties for not buckling up are fists in the back to do so.
The Legislature will wrestle with difficult issues this session. A ban on texting while driving is so simple, and lawmakers get to save lives in the process. Who exactly opposes this?
We've said it before and we'll say it again: How many brains does it take to pass a no-brainer?
Original Print Headline: Texting while driving ban
Julie DelCour, 918-581-8379
A photo taken from the RAB Foundation - "Remember Alex Brown" - website. Courtesy