Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Cell phones will be the death of us

Whenever I am driving on the highway and glance at cars to the side of me and see someone texting, I hope they don’t look back at me, because making awkward eye contact in cars is always uncomfortable; but in all seriousness, I actually also become nervous because they are using their cell phone, so I get away from them. In Massachusetts, there are laws in place to prevent drivers from texting while driving, for good reason.

I’m sure we have all texted and driven before. You can feel how much less control over the vehicle you have, and that is exactly why you should not do it. I can’t even imagine what it would be like for my family and close friends to get a call saying I got into a car accident, especially one which could have been completely avoided. Can you imagine living with yourself knowing your actions destroyed someone else’s life?

Thirty-five states, D.C. and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers. I think these laws should be in place for all states, because if more than half of the states in the U.S. ban text messaging while driving, it is clearly a problem. You probably know already that it has been proven that driving drunk is less harmful than driving while texting. People think of drinking and driving as extremely dangerous and the fact that something could be worse is terrifying. You have the control over whether you are impaired or not, which makes the situation even more inexcusable. Think about it, while texting, you are most likely looking down at your screen. Your hand on the wheel is not very steady, your mind is not concentrating on the foot that is pressing the gas and break pedals, and you are not keeping your full attention on the road. Being older does not mean you can concentrate better, so that’s probably why texting is still illegal for drivers over the age of 18.

Calling, on the other hand, is legal in Massachusetts for drivers over 18 years old. Do you thinkthere is really a difference between 17 and 18 year olds behind the wheel? Maybe for driving experience, but maturity wise, I don’t believe so. Nine states, D.C., Guam and the Virgin Islands, prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving. An officer may cite a driver for using a handheld cell phone without any other traffic offense taking place.

Unless you are using Bluetooth, you end up driving with only one hand. I drive with one hand quite often, but I’m in a different state of mind compared to when I am on the phone. But is talking on the phone really that different from talking to someone else who is in the car? Or is talking on Bluetooth more similar to that? The conversation aspect is a distraction. But is this saying that whenever we are driving with our friends and other passengers we are distracted? It depends on the person and the situation. I think a full car of people can be distracting if there are multiple conversations you are trying to listen to, but if there are only a few friends, it isn’t much different from what you do all the time.

We face slight distractions, such as a conversation, every day. I don’t count talking to people while I drive as a distraction because since I do so in everyday life, I am used to talking while doing other things that I do as frequently as driving.  What about music, though? I can’t listen to music when I do work because it distracts me too much. I need to concentrate on what I am trying to read or write, but I can easily listen to music while I drive.

Driving while tired is also impaired driving. Just like when you are drunk, your reaction time is much slower. If someone asks me something when I am typing out a text, my reaction time to answer them is also slower. There’s living proof that technology and any unnatural state of mind will impair you.

I laugh at people who are attempting to eat a sandwich and drive at the same time. I know someone who was eating a sandwich in the car while driving and dropped it. Their natural instinct was to pick it up, but while doing so, she accidentally turned the wheel and drove into a mailbox. The sandwich really wasn’t that important, but if you think you can fix the minor problem, then your brain tells you to do it. Before you have time to react and think to yourself that you will get it after, you pick up that sandwich and you’re doomed.

What if you are really hungry or what if you really have to send a text message or hear your phone ring while driving? You can wait five minutes. Just have self-control and don’t pick it up because you aren’t the only one on the road. Worry about other people as well. You can always pull over. I’d say it’s the same for making a phone call or answering one because you have to look down, which lessens your control over the car and your concentration on the road and what is around you. Driving really is a privilege and I don’t believe anyone should have it taken away due to an avoidable mistake.

Karen Podorefsky is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].


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  • B

    BobOct 27, 2014 at 3:06 pm

    why, why do people like you get to bully me around 🙁 my phone is worth than a dog or horse you know. I live for the moment just like my father said.

  • E

    Erik WoodApr 2, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    I think we live in a culture where business people need to ‘hit the ball over the net’. Teens consider it rude not to reply immediately to texts. Home schedules would grind to a halt without immediate communication. We are conditioned to pursue this level of efficiency but we are all supposed cease this behavior once we sit in our respective 5,000 pound pieces of steel and glass. Creating a sustainably safer driver may start with public awareness via legislation but legislation alone cannot win this battle.

    I read that more than 3/4 of teens text daily – many text more 4000 times a month. New college students no longer have email addresses! They use texting and Facebook – even with their professors. Tweens (ages 9 -12) send texts to each other from their bikes. This text and drive issue is in its infancy and I think we need to do more than legislate.

    I decided to do something about distracted driving after my three year old daughter was nearly run down right in front of me by a texting driver. Instead of a shackle that locks down phones and alienates the user (especially teens) I built a tool called OTTER that is a simple GPS based texting auto reply app for smartphones. It also silences call ringtones while driving unless you have a bluetooth enabled. I think if we can empower the individual then change will come to our highways now and not just our laws.

    Erik Wood, owner
    OTTER app
    “do one thing well… be great.”