No. 1259



Here is something about as close to a sure thing as you can get: the vast majority of American parents love their children and would do most anything they could to protect them from harm, injury and certainly death. Yet many of these same parents do not take the time to talk with -- and certainly educate -- their children who are old enough to drive an automobile about the dangers of texting or talking on a cell phone while driving. And it is also a sure thing that many parents cry their eyes out when their child is killed in an automobile accident while texting or talking on a cell phone. I suspect the reason this is true is because these parents are also texting and talking on their cell phone.
Now, this is not the type of column that I like to write, but if it will just save one precious child from a horrible death caused by texting or talking on a cell phone it will be time and space well spent. Unfortunately, a lot of parents suffer from a malady called, “It won’t happen to me or my child” and just don’t give it much thought because everybody’s doing it. The reason I decided to do this column is because of a memo I received recently from Kyle Fretwell, who passed along some statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that documented just how dangerous this practice has become.
Let me begin by telling you that texting and driving among American teenagers is the second leading cause of death, only behind the leading cause which is suicide. Here are some eye-opening statistics: Nationwide, the percentage of teens who text and drive is 39.2 percent. Now, just think about that -- 4 out of every 10 teenagers do it. Is your child one of them? Annual teen traffic fatalities: 2,734 (7.36 percent of all traffic fatalities). Distraction-affected traffic fatalities: 3,166 (8.5 percent of all traffic fatalities). And total traffic fatalities, 37,133. Now folks, that is a lot of people killed each year on our nation’s highways.
There is another consideration here when it comes to this potentially fatal habit, and that is the deaths of so many innocent people who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and were involved in the accident. I will tell you that I have never been guilty of texting and driving, but I have been guilty of answering my cell phone while driving. I have taken the utmost caution while doing so, and then only for a short period of time.
It has been said that if we are lucky we will make it safely through life until death. I know one thing for sure, here in my 8th decade, I am more careful while driving an automobile than I have ever been before. Our home is located near Interstate 40 and we have to drive it from time to time, especially when we go south to Little Rock, our state’s capital. We have found that on the interstate, you will get run over if you drive the speed limit. I am well aware the number one cause for traffic fatalities is speed. When you are driving 80 miles per hour, your reaction time is so much less than when you are going 55 miles per hour.
As I come to the end of my visit with you, I hope you will consider this short heart-to-heart conversation about something simple that is very important. If you are guilty of texting while driving, please do not do this ever again for your sake, and also talk with your children about it. This is just common sense and I hope you have an ample supply.
(Editor’s Note: JIM DAVIDSON is an author, public speaker, syndicated columnist and founder of the Bookcase for Every Child project. Since its inception in 1995, Jim’s column has been self-syndicated to over 375 newspapers in 35 states, making it one of the most successful in the history of American journalism.)