It is time that texting and driving be firmly addressed. Everyone knows they should not do it. It’s dangerous, it’s distracting, it’s unnecessary. Yet not only does it continue, it gets worse everyday.
I could easily spend the next few paragraphs spouting statistics about distracted driving. I could bullet point that according to the Department of Motor Vehicles, texting and driving is rapidly approaching the leading cause of fatalities for teens across the country. I could note that texting and driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk.
I could go on and on, listing facts that may or may not stick.
But instead I’d like to do an activity: close your eyes and count five seconds. Actually do it, slowly, for the full five seconds. It’s longer than you probably thought it would be. It takes approximately five seconds to read a text. That’s five seconds when your eyes are completely off the road and you are 100 percent distracted from driving. Keep in mind that most text conversations aren’t just one text long. So add another five seconds to that. And another. And another. Twelve texts later, you’re looking at a full minute of driving essentially blind.
Let’s talk excuses for a minute. So often people say, “I only text when stopped in traffic,” or “it's a red light, it’s fine,” or “I’m not the problem – I can multitask.”
Except that you can’t. No one can.
Now ask yourself this: how necessary or important are the texts you are sending and receiving? Probably not very important. Take a look back at the last couple conversations you’ve had. Did any of them include cat pictures? Or making plans that could easily wait to be made? What about screenshots of another friend’s snapchats? None of those things need to be addressed while operating a vehicle.
There is a simple solution: stop. Don’t text and drive. If it’s too tempting, put your phone out of reach. Currently, 47 states have texting and driving laws. In Minnesota, the law states the following: "It is illegal for drivers of all ages to compose, read or send electronic messages or access the Internet on a wireless device when the vehicle is in motion or part of traffic. This includes being stopped in traffic or at a light."
Although these laws are in place, they also have to be enforced by the police. This means we need to hold ourselves accountable for our actions. Illegal or not, texting and driving continues. It truly is an epidemic. Your driver’s license is a privilege. So is your smartphone. Stop abusing both of them while putting lives at risk.
This letter has been lightly edited for clarity and style.
Maggie Arends is a graduate of the University of Minnesota.