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The text you send while driving could be the last text you send

Sometimes, five seconds is all it takes.

It took about five seconds for me to decide to click on a link about texting and driving. The video shared on Facebook was about 10 minutes long, practically an eternity in the viral world, but its content was much more valuable than commenting on some random status.

You’ve probably heard of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” campaign. I’ve seen the commercials on TV and heard them on the radio, but the documentary released Dec. 27 literally made me sit up in my computer chair.

It follows four heart-wrenching stories about accidents caused by texting and driving. It wasn’t fictional or cheesy; it was real. The title says it all: “The Last Text.”

Each segment includes the last text that caused the accident. Like with most messages, they were arbitrary and insignificant. One said “yeah,” and another “Where r u?” The example that shook me the most read “LOL.” A 17-year-old killed a bicyclist because he texted three letters.

How often do we text those three letters? Is it really that important?

There have been countless campaigns with similar messages. Oprah launched a campaign in April 2010 which encouraged drivers to take a pledge making their cars a “No Phone Zone.” Governmental agencies have joined in the movement, including Minnesota’s Department of Public Safety. More than 100 law enforcement agencies conducted a “Distraction Free Driving Day” in August 2010 to crackdown on distracted drivers.

Texting has become a phenomenon in current society. Look around in class, on the bus or while in line for your mid-morning latte; everyone has their cell phones out. And unfortunately, many have them out while they’re behind the wheel.

Although I wouldn’t consider it a daily habit of mine, I will admit to the occasional text conversation while I’m driving home on I-70. It’s kind of like smoking or drinking and driving, everyone knows it’s bad, but some do it anyway.

Studies show that while drinking and driving makes a driver four times as likely to get in an accident, texting and driving doubles that to eight times more likely.

One study released by Virginia Tech in 2009 found that the average length of time drivers look down at their phones before crashing is five seconds. If the car is traveling at 55 mph, that is enough time to travel the distance of a football field.

And how many people actually go 55 mph on Route 315? It’s a jungle out there.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety website, text messaging is banned for all drivers in 30 states and the District of Columbia.

Ohio does not currently have a law banning cell phone usage of any kind while driving, but localities can enact their own bans. Columbus outlawed texting and driving in May 2010. The fine is $150.

But even if the fine doesn’t scare you out of putting your phone down, just take the 10 minutes to watch the documentary.

I mean, you’ve already invested a couple minutes into reading this column.

But whatever you do, don’t watch it on your smart phone while driving.

Seriously, it can wait.


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