Text While Driving: Lawmakers Should Go Slow.

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Commentary by Stacia Coke:

I would not call myself a chronic texter. I maybe send five messages a day and overall I have managed to avoid using text shorthand, such as substituting the letters, J K for the phrase, just kidding. I nonetheless find myself intrigued by the recent legislative efforts to ban text messaging while driving. The proposed measure, which has been approved by the Ohio House would ban most text messaging while operating a vehicle. The bill got me thinking, not just about my own texting habits but also about what we as a society deem appropriate and inappropriate behaviors while driving.

Clearly, what you do inside a vehicle is not considered private. We have laws limiting what types of behaviors are allowable. For instance, we think drinking alcohol before or while operating a vehicle is an inappropriate behavior. And, I would agree that anything that can impair my reaction time or cause me to sing Celine Dion karaoke should be avoided while driving a 4,000 pound machine. Yet while texting messaging behind the wheel is irresponsible and should be avoided, It is false to claim that texting is more dangerous than other activities people do in their cars.

I have passed countless vehicles during my morning commute in which I see drivers using both hands to tie a tie, or using the rearview mirror to apply mascara. Once, I even saw a woman teasing her hair. I admit to pillaging through my purse, head bent and eyes diverted from the road, in order to find my lip gloss. Its pretty obvious that any of these actions distract drivers. Yet, we do not have laws banning them. So, why text messaging?

If people want to stop drivers from being distracted, should we not also consider banning anything that takes our hands away from the ten and two positions? A recent Dispatch article quotes someone as saying that if people knew that text messaging while driving was illegal they would be more likely to stop. But, speeding is illegal and yet so many Ohio drivers set their cruise controls above 65. Merging without signaling is illegal and yet everyday I find myself shouting profanities at some driver who cut me off without using a left blinker.

Texting while driving certainly is not equal to speeding, merging without signaling, or even eating a sloppy fast food burger at the wheel. Yet the argument that it is more dangerous because of its inherent distracting nature does not hold ground, in my opinion. I am sympathetic to people who have been injured, or lost a loved one because of a distracted driver. But, before Ohio joins 19 other states in banning text messaging while driving we should take a moment to evaluate are car culture.

While banning text messaging may prevent some accidents, it definitely will not fix the problem of distracted drivers. Perhaps if we returned to thinking of driving as a responsibility rather than an obligation people would be more likely to evaluate their own distracting habits rather than place blame on texters. Doing so might cause us to think about why we engage in irresponsible behaviors in the first place. But then again this is all just IMO, in my opinion.