Staff Editorial: Driving distracted not worth the risks

Driving is a responsibility we need to take more seriously in an age of increasingly distracting mobile technology.

Chimes Staff, Writer

A recently released study by the Highway Loss Data Institute found that texting bans in four states — California, Arizona, Nevada and Oregon — have resulted in no fewer accidents.

Moreover, the study found that many drivers routinely ignore the laws anyway. College-age individuals were the most likely group to text among those surveyed, with 45 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds in the states banning texting sending messages anyways. That is barely less than in the states without those laws, where 48 percent of drivers in the same age category admitted to texting while driving.

"The point of texting bans is to reduce crashes, and by this essential measure the laws are ineffective," said Adrian Lund, president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, in a press release.

But that doesn’t mean texting from behind the wheel is not an issue. An in-depth 2009 study by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute claimed that texting increases one’s risk of crashing by 23 times.

Today more than ever, a plethora of devices keep us entertained as we drive from point A to point B. Any cognisant person will admit that those devices are more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to safety and driving attention. Driving distracted is just unsafe.

Allowing unimportant things like texting to distract us isn’t only stupid; it’s also selfish.

Each time we pick up a cell phone to send a message to a friend or take our eyes off the road for a few seconds to change that tune on our iPods, we are prioritizing ourselves above others. This is, of course, done unintentionally. Perhaps, then, we should make ourselves more aware of our responsibility as drivers.

Whenever we put ourselves behind the wheel, we assume responsibility not just for ourselves, but for those we come in contact with on the road. What matters so significantly that it warrants putting others’ lives in jeopardy?

Philippians 2:4 addresses the heart of this matter: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” As Torrey Conference speaker Tim Pollard pointed out on Wednesday, this means setting aside our own desires to consider others’ wants or needs. Avoiding distractions while we drive is just one practical way of doing that.

At times, we aren’t the ones behind the wheel. Watching a friend or family member drive while distracted places us in a tough spot. In those instances, we need the boldness and tact to speak up and ask them to stop. Probably all of us can recall at least one uncomfortable experience in which the person behind the wheel was driving irresponsibly. But did we say anything?

It’s even a matter of ego. We know that it’s hard to admit that we can’t drive well when distracted. When distracted driving is pointed out by a caring friend, the gut reaction is to shrug off the warning. Something about the American obsession with the road makes driving ability a sensitive spot to criticism. When a friend urges you to put down the cell phone and the double-whipped, lowfat Starbucks Macchiatto and watch the road, don’t take it as a personal slam. Just put down the beverage. Cars have more cupholders than seats for a reason.

This shouldn’t be taken as a guilt trip. We all fail to consider others as we ought to. But sometimes, it is by the seemingly small actions, like waiting until a stoplight to fiddle with the radio or dialing a number after parking, when we can put Philippians 2:4 into practice.

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