QUESTION: Federal accident investigators said Tuesday that texting by a pilot contributed to a helicopter crash that killed four people in Missouri in August 2011. Unfortunately, studies show that distracted driving is a factor in more and more traffic, and now, aircraft accidents. What can be done to stop this? Is this an across-the-board issue, or something that needs to be targeted toward a certain demographic? What actions, if any, do you want done to make roads safer?
Cars should be outfitted to dispute phones
The problem with cell phone usage is there’s no way to easily confirm that drivers were using their phone if they died, or when they had their accident. But you can see for yourself by riding around in an automobile and watching the other people on the road. You will be dismayed by the number you see with their heads down looking into their laps…. I have to assume they are texting.
What does the smart phone, knife, hand guns, rifles, ball bats, etc. all have in common? The people who wield them for purposes other than what they were intended. Do we ban each and every one of these? Not likely. The smart phones are an amazing issue. Virtually everyone uses them, and from almost every age and/or ethnic group. And what’s sad is, there are so very few people who can honestly say they don’t use them when driving. This past Sunday I drove back to the lake area from Oklahoma. I was passing a young lady driving through Springfield, she had her head bowed as she texted on her phone. What’s truly sad about this is I was driving a very large truck, towing a 40’ fifth wheel camper. As I passed her, (she was running about 50 or so, in a 60 mph, heavily travelled, interstate highway) she never looked up. I watched her in my rearview mirror for as long as I safely could and I don’t think she ever realized she was being passed. The what if’s are endless, the reality is we all made it through it.
As the use of smart phones proliferates, so does the need to regulate their usage when operating a vehicle of any type. In my mind the solution is simple. Every vehicle should be outfitted with a low power cell phone disruptor to make cell phones inoperable when the transmission is in any position other than park. Now wait a second and listen, you can almost hear the shrieks from the entire readership as they read this and proclaim things like “How dare he propose this? Who is he to suggest we can’t text or talk on our cell phones while driving? Etc. Etc.” Well, I’ll tell you who I am. I am an individual who spends a lot of time on the roadway and anything we can do to make the roads safer should be of interest to everyone who is driving. To borrow a battered Obama phrase, “ If we could save just one life……” Isn’t that worth it? What? That doesn’t work here? Why not? Are you one of the guilty?
Page 2 of 4 - My bet is a solution like this would save far more lives than the current barrage of Second Amendment decimating bills being proposed by our current flock of government leaders, and, to be perfectly honest, I’ve looked at the constitution and I see no provision for the right to drive distracted mentioned. So we could pass a bill of this nature and not even tread on your rights. The reason a solution like this will never fly is it will affect everyone. Liberals, Conservatives, Moderates, people of every ethnic background and age group.
People will say, well, if we pass a law then people will stop on their own. Really? Laws didn’t preclude the young man at the Lone Star College in Texas as he injured 14 people with an Exacto knife; the various gun toting criminals over the year have broken numerous laws and never batted an eye. Do you speed on the roadway? That’s breaking a law? How about tipping 2-3 beers or drinks then driving home? You can bet you are breaking a major law there. Did any of these laws stop you. Nope. Laws are only adhered to by law abiding people and law abiding people realize (hopefully) just how dangerous texting, emailing or talking on a smart phone is, and don’t do it. Where do you fit in this mix?
Say no to more legislation
The last thing we need is more legislation. We already have laws on the books that cover engaging in distractive activity while operating nearly every form of transportation including helicopters and automobiles. Enforce these laws and educate people on the risks and penalties.
Up to state to make road safer
In December 2009, the wireless industry reported 286 million subscribers who sent 1,527 billion text messages per month. The New York Times in an article from May 2009 reported U.S. teens sending and receiving an average of 2,272 text messages per month. That’s 75 per day and I’m sure it is substantially higher than that number now. Especially with the family plans now offered by wireless carriers, with unlimited talk and text.
I searched for information regarding texting and auto accidents and there just isn’t a substantial amount available. In 2011, about 23% of auto collisions involved cell phones which equates to about 1.3 million crashes.
What I did learn, if you have a cell phone more than likely you are currently or have in the past texted while driving, and I’m no exception. The percentage of teen drivers reporting this activity is higher than most other groups.
Page 3 of 4 - Texting is a distraction while driving. The minimal amount of time your attention from the road is distracted is 5 seconds. Assuming you are driving the posted speed limit, on Highway 54 bypass at 65 mph you would travel about 475 feet. That is a little over 1 ½ lengths of a football field. Then heading north you reach the 70 mph speed zone. Five seconds equals the length of 1 ¾ football fields. Then there is Rt. 5 going north from Camdenton. Curves, hills and valleys and at 55 mph you’d go about 1 ¼ lengths of the football field. So much can happen in that short period of time.
Missouri has a ban on texting for drivers less than 21 years of age but no other restrictions. The Missouri House has two bills, HB394 and HB 524 which restrict texting for all unless voice recognition technology and hands free capabilities are used. Currently, our Representatives mustn’t consider this an issue because no hearings are scheduled and they are not on the calendar.
I’ve traveled lots of highways and byways and seen the results of many accidents. Some of which I’m sure were caused by inattentiveness due to texting. I’ve seen the “drift” of a vehicle into my lane, not only auto’s but semi’s and drivers of all age groups. You have to be a defensive driver to avoid the other driver’s lack of attention.
I would advise every parent with a child about to start driving or already driving to go to the Missouri State Highway Patrol website and look at the video “My Last Text”.
Driving and texting has serious and deadly consequences and if State governments don’t take action then the Federal government needs to make our roads safer.
Driving is the only job for drivers
Some may think that I am out of step with the rest of society or that I am not wired right. Well, that may well be true. I simply have never owned a cell phone, laptop computer, portable anything but a radio. Texting means writing a letter long hand. Tweeting should be left up to the birds instead of the careless and insipid way that mere mortals have found to do it. I haven't a clue as to how to instant message someone or to get on a chat line. It is a waste of time and energy that I could use for something more profitable.
I was raised in a household in the 60s and 70s that had only one telephone. It was the classic black dial phone of the era. If we missed a phone call, we didn't worry about it. Dad always said "If it is important they will call back later."
Page 4 of 4 - We have become a society that is too techno-crazy! We cannot go anywhere without something stuck in our ears, whether it be cell phones or ear phones! Why can't we just come down and relate to the human race! It has worked for over 6,000 years!
It has become an epidemic that is sadly proving to be deadly. I was very shocked to learn how unprofessional this pilot was, He was too busy texting on his cell to fill up his aircraft with fuel as he made his pre-flight inspections. That helicopter ran out of fuel and everyone died as the pilot continued to text . This very same thing happens out on the freeways of America everyday. People are dying and someone is always left to grieve.
Since I am a native Missourian, I will put this very plainly. When you are driving, that is your only job to do. Turn off your cell phones or at least leave them where you can listen to a message later. Don't be fiddling with your radios! Look straight ahead! Check your mirrors! Let's not be messing with your hair and make up either! Good grief, people! Make a choice! Arrive alive! Somebody out there loves you!
Everyone should feel consequences
This is an across-the-board issue and should be dealt with legislatively. It should be a misdemeanor to text while operating transport equipment.