This is the time of year that we reflect upon changes we would like to make in our lives. These changes can be ridding ourselves of bad habits, making different lifestyle choices, setting new goals, or a hundred other things that denote a fresh start or new outlook for a new year. I love the reflection that happens this time of year and the good intentions that are behind new year resolutions.
I know that all too often the conviction behind good intentions quickly wanes when reality hits. Change isn’t always easy and just because it is a new year doesn’t mean it is magically easier to make changes that you have not made thus far. Trust me, I know about this. I have been around for decades and I have plenty of experience in this arena. If I had a dollar for every new year resolution that I pondered and then faltered on – well, I would have quite the fistful of dollars. After awhile you recognize that making new year resolutions that you don’t follow-through on only makes you feel like a failure. I am thinking that is not the best way to start the year.
But today I ask you to consider a new year resolution that you can actually accomplish and in doing so, you can make the world a safer place for all. It is easy, will cost you no money, does not require exercise equipment, does not restrict your diet, or result in pain of any sort. It is a resolution that is supported by millions of folks around the world in word and deed – do not text or email while driving.
It is hardly new news that this behavior – reading or sending texts or emails while driving is dangerous. The data is in and has been in for years. This behavior is more dangerous than driving while under the influence. I know many folks do not believe that, but the data does not lie – nor do the corpses of those who serve as morbid reminders of how dangerous this behavior is. Far and away, this is one of the most clear and present dangers on the road today.
Spend one day while you are driving around town observing the state of other drivers’ attention. If your experience is anything like mine you will see better than 50% of folks fiddling with their phones – maybe not always actually texting or emailing, but in some way, shape, or form engaged with their phones. This should frighten you because those folks are more likely to be in an accident and they are on the same roadway as you and your family members.
There have been many educational and awareness campaigns that have dealt with this topic and there are laws against texting/emailing and operating a motor vehicle. There have also been a increasing number of prosecutions that have sought jail and prison sentences for those whose texting/emailing resulted in serious injury or a vehicular manslaughter. If you are texting/emailing while driving (which includes reading them as well), you are not only breaking the law you are putting yourself and others in jeopardy of great bodily harm. Forget about all the lives you will forever change and the hearts you will break when you injure or kill yourself or others – forget about your family’s angst as they sit at your trial for vehicular manslaughter or visit you in jail.
This is not a game. This is not a silly law created by overanxious or overly cautious lawmakers. This is the reality evidenced by the data. Do a search on the Internet – look for stories about the fallout of texting/emailing and driving. You will find a litany of tragic stories that occurred because folks had to send or read some silly communication while driving. Deaths, injuries, prison sentences…the stories just keep on coming. If you do the research you will learn that cell phone service providers are one of the biggest supporters of the safety message and laws because they know that they are inextricably linked to this issue and must step forward to address it or eventually be hit with lawsuits the likes of which the tobacco industry faced. They are aware of the hazard and actively warning you of it to help you protect yourself, others, and their corporate assets.
Locally, the Fargo Police Department partnered with a number of businesses in 2013 to launch the Eyes Forward campaign. It is primarily targeted at teen drivers who text and email far more than they talk on the phone, but it includes tips for safe and legal behavior that we all should adopt. Read the simple steps below and make it your new year resolution this year – a resolution you keep – don’t text/email and drive. This is a resolution you can live with.
TIPS FOR TEENS & NEW DRIVERS:
- Don’t be tempted. Turn off your cell phone. Let voicemail capture your voice & text messages.
- If you have to call or text while driving, pull off the road safely and stop.
- Recognize that text messaging is a bad habit. Get support from your friends by letting them know you are working on breaking the texting habit.
- If you think you will still be tempted to text and drive, put your phone somewhere you can’t reach it, like the trunk.
- Take control of your cell phone, don’t let it control you. You are the only one who decides when and if you send and read a text message.
- Remember that it is illegal in North Dakota for anyone under 18 to use a handheld electronic device while driving, including cell phones.
Tips for parents:
- Don’t call/text your teen at times when you know they are likely to be driving.
- Review your teen’s cell phone bill with them to see if they are texting at times they are likely to be driving.
- Share this information with your teen.
- Know the North Dakota law and let your teens know…it is illegal for anyone in North Dakota to text and drive. A ticket will cost you $100.
- Establish family rules prohibiting texting while driving.
- Set a good example, don’t text and drive.
Day one thousand two hundred and seventy-four of the new forty – obla di obla da