Editorial: Stronger laws needed


Feb 26, 2014

Students at Pitt Community College had the opportunity on Tuesday to experience the effects drinking or texting have on one’s ability to drive a car. It’s good that the Save A Life Tour, which visited PCC, and other such initiatives place alcohol consumption and cellphone use in the same category of deadliness. The more those pervasive threats to public safety are denounced in the same breath, the better.

In the years since cellphone technology emerged, a growing list of lives cut short due to distracted driving has touched every community. Sadly, it was not until 2009 that the U.S. Department of Transportation began pushing for stronger laws and increased public awareness to combat the deadly consequences of distracted driving.

In North Carolina, all cellphone use (handheld and hands-free) is banned for bus drivers and all drivers younger than 18. Texting is against the law for all drivers in North Carolina.

The fact that those laws were not passed before 2009 is a reflection of how quickly this technology became ingrained in the culture and how slowly society has reacted to its potential danger. Convincing teens and young adults of the danger is especially difficult, and the cellphone habits of many older drivers are not helping.

Consider that today’s teenagers do not remember a time when it was not common to see a large percentage of automobile drivers moving through traffic with one hand on the wheel and the other holding a cellphone to an ear. By the time most of today’s teens become licensed drivers, they will be experts at texting, having spent years attached to a personal cellphone. Also consider that for drivers 15-19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cellphones, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

Despite new laws and awareness campaigns, too many young “texting experts” will believe they can safely text behind the wheel.

A young man helping conduct the Save A Life campaign at PCC told The Daily Reflector he was inspired to do so after recently losing a friend who died in a car crash because she was texting while driving. The man said the tragic loss caused him to stop using his cellphone behind the wheel and begin working to influence other young drivers to do the same.

At this stage in the history of cellphone technology, no one should have to lose a loved one before reality sets in regarding the clear and present dangers. Unfortunately, some drivers who continue ignoring the danger will become part of the distracted-driving statistics that eventully will result in stronger laws.