Texting while driving a dangerous distraction



With prom, graduation and summer approaching, we are heading into the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers — the days between Memorial Day and Labor Day. According to the AAA, far more teen drivers and passengers die during the summer months than during the school year.

There are a number of factors that makes these days deadly for young drivers. One key factor is distraction.

Texting ranks as the top mode of communication among teens. On average, teens text five times more a day than a typical adult. When this habit hits the road, drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be in an accident or near-accident.

With bipartisan support, the Florida Legislature has approved legislation to make texting while driving illegal. SB 52 now goes to Gov. Rick Scott for his signature. We applaud Sen. Nancy Detert and Reps. Doug Holder and Ray Pilon for sponsoring this important legislation. Prohibiting texting while driving is a crucial step to make Florida’s roads safer for all travelers.

A survey commissioned by AT&T as part of the “It Can Wait” campaign indicates that while 97 percent of teens know texting while driving is dangerous, 43 percent of them admit to sending a text while driving — and 75 percent say the practice is common among their friends.

The survey found that teenagers feel pressure to respond quickly to text messages. In addition, many adults set a poor example by texting while driving.

This is why the National Transportation Safety Board and AT&T have joined together to urge support of this important legislation. It’s time for Florida, with millions of drivers, a high rate of pedestrian fatalities and one of the nation’s deadliest highways, to take a stand for safety.

We are encouraged that 39 states and Washington, D.C., currently ban text messaging for all drivers. By passing a law banning texting while driving, Florida will continue the momentum in statehouses across the country to address this dangerous form of driver distraction

Steve Augello of Spring Hill, lost his 17-year-old daughter Allie five years ago in a head-on crash caused by distracted driving. He has traveled to Tallahassee to make the case to Florida lawmakers to ban texting. Augello is not alone is his grief. Far too often — thousands of times each year — we hear heartbreaking stories like what happened to the Augello family. Too many people are killed and injured in crashes that are preventable.

Both the National Transportation Safety Board and AT&T are committed to education and will continue with aggressive public awareness and safety campaigns. We look forward to Gov. Rick Scott signing this important legislation. It’s a simple message: “No text is worth it. It Can Wait.”

Deborah A. P. Hersman is chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Marshall M. Criser, III, is state president of AT&T Florida.

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