Texting while driving is getting a lot of attention lately, not just for teens but for all drivers.  Every week, somewhere in the news we read stories from around the country where citizens or legislative bodies are pushing to ban this activity and make it illegal.

Would the implementation of new laws to ban texting while driving really solve the problem?  My answer is, absolutely not!

Before you think I’m crazy, let’s examine this issue thoroughly to see if my logic makes any sense.

Let me start by asking you, what prompts people to make good decisions about anything in life?

Is it laws and regulations that promote good decisions or is it the individual’s personal judgment that determines the type of choices and decisions they make?

Laws are obviously important as they set the standard for what is acceptable and they define the consequences for judging the unacceptable.  But laws only provide real value when responsible people are willing to abide by them.  No law can prevent an individual from doing what is deemed illegal if that individual is determined to engage in the illegal activity.

If that were not a true statement, why do we have jails and prisons?

A quick look at teenage vehicle fatalities in this country affirms my position.

We have laws that make it illegal to drive faster than the posted speed limit yet 38% of these fatalities involve speeding.  It’s illegal to drink and drive but 24% of teens killed in car crashes result from drinking.  The law states that drivers and passengers must wear seat belts but sadly, 64% of the teens killed were unbelted.  What value did these laws represent to the lives that were lost?

Another factor to consider here is the enforcement procedures a ban on texting would entail.  Based on current models of these laws that already exist, they are self-policing for the most part.  However, enforcement by Police Officers requires that the officer “visually observe” a driver to determine they are actually texting.  Is that less dangerous than what the driver with the cell phone is doing?

If we want to ban texting because it takes the driver’s focus off the road and thereby creates a dangerous situation for that driver and everyone else nearby, are we suggesting it is somehow safe for a police officer to take his/her focus off the road?  How long will an officer be “distracted” to effectively provide enforcement of this law?  Are any of you willing to believe this is a safe solution for the problem?  Plus, if they are both in cars, how will the officer be able to prove that the alleged texter is actually texting and not doing anything else that could present like texting from afar or car to car?

In my opinion, texting while driving is a symptom of a problem, not the cause of a problem and there is a huge difference between the two.  Creating a law to ban texting while driving may be a treatment for the symptom but it completely fails to address the root cause of the problem.  The root cause is that people fail to abide the “risk” associated with texting while driving seriously.

A good illustration of the point I’m trying to make is the recent story of an 18 year old girl who was killed on January 14 of this year.  While driving down an interstate she sent the following text to her facebook page.  “I can’t discuss this matter now.  Driving and facebooking are not safe, ha ha”.  Moments later, she rear ended a slow moving semi at 88 mph and was instantly killed.

Would a law making texting illegal have prevented this tragedy?  She openly acknowledged her actions were unsafe. Whether her actions were illegal or not likely wouldn’t have changed anything.  She made a conscious decision to ignore the danger and I believe the “ha ha” in her text confirms she simply didn’t take this risk seriously enough.

We don’t have laws that make it illegal to jump from an airplane without a parachute and it’s not illegal to dive off a diving board into an empty pool.  But who would consider doing either of these?  Short of being suicidal, anyone thinking of doing these things would fully consider the “risk” and willfully “choose” NOT to engage in these activities.  No law is preventing them but the assessment of the risk is sufficient to deter them as the consequences are simply too great to ignore.

Safe driving by any definition starts in the driver’s mind.  It is their mind that controls each and every body movement which in turn, affects the control of their vehicle.  It is time that we as a society of drivers stop expecting the government or the vehicle manufacturers to insure our safety and protect us from bad judgment and poor decisions.

So if we’re going to get serious about the symptom (texting while driving), let’s get serious about the problem and start taking the “risk” more seriously than we do now.

Parents – start leading by example; put the phones down and get more involved in your teenager’s learning process and driving activities.  Set the rules, exemplify the rules, enforce the rules and find every opportunity to express the value in abiding by the rules.

Teens – grasp the reality that driving is the NUMBER ONE cause of death for people your age.

Since this statistical fact was true when your parents were teenagers, a time when cell phones, GPS units and other electronic devices didn’t yet exist, you must realize that your risk today for being killed is greater than ever.  Your mental view about the seriousness of this risk is the first line of defense for your personal safety, and of those around you.

Whether you’re a parent or a teenager, if you’re waiting for some law to prevent you from texting while you drive, your judgment is too poor for the law to help you.  If you can’t fully recognize the danger of texting after all the fatal crashes that have already taken the lives of people just like you, I can assure you the law will do nothing to change your mind or your behavior.  At best, it will only inflict some monetary consequence to your actions, assuming you are alive to receive it.

If you’re ready to get serious about building the mental skills that produce sound judgment for making good decisions, contact us at Teen Driving Solutions.  Our GRIP on Life Teen Driving Seminars as well as our Parent-Teen Seminars provides judgment based education and training for the entire family.  We value life and have dedicated ours to helping teens Arrive Alive at all their driving destinations.

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