Jeff and Ling Murray were the proud parents of Calli, who at age two already spoke English and Chinese.
Kaitlyn Dunaway's parents also had reason to be proud. Dunaway, 18, was a freshman at Sonoma State University and a star volleyball player.
But on Dec. 1, 2010, according to the Sonoma County District Attorney, Dunaway did something stupid, reckless and illegal that countless people do every year. The teen attempted to text while she was driving.
According to authorities, Dunaway was so distracted by her cell phone, she didn’t see Calli walking hand in hand with her mother in a crosswalk. Dunaway's Honda plowed into the toddler and her mother. Two-year-old Calli was killed. Ling Murray suffered major bone fractures and was unconscious for five days. She continues to undergo rehabilitation. 1
. . .
David and Linda Kubert remember everything about that beautiful September day. They’d been out together on their Harley motorcycle, riding along a winding road in Morris County, NJ.
They can still envision the curve of the road ahead and the pickup truck heading toward them. They can still see the young driver heading toward them from the opposite direction. His elbows on the steering wheel, his face angled down toward what police would later determine was his cell phone. And they will never forget what happened next. In the blink of an eye, both of them were on the ground.
The Kuberts, of Dover, NJ, each lost a leg when their motorcycle was struck by that pickup truck driven by a teen driver they say was texting. 2.
DON’T BE A STATISTIC
Sadly, Kaitlyn Dunaway and the young driver who injured the Kuberts are among a large of group of people who text and drive despite the consequences. In fact, a Fairleigh Dickinson-PublicMind poll on New Jersey driving habits found the number of motorists who admit to texting while driving jumped 40 percent from 2008 to 2009. The poll, co-sponsored by the New Jersey Division of Highway Safety, also found one out of five drivers has sent a text while operating a vehicle.
A recent scientific study based on NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) and the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) data showed that about 16,000 people died in the U.S. between 2001 and 2007 as a result of distractions from mobile phone use whether through driving or texting. Released in September 2010, the study was one of the first attempts to quantify the number of road fatalities that can be directly linked to mobile phone use. More recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation reported that nearly 5,500 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2009. And the National Safety Council estimates that each year, 100,000 car crashes have been tied to texting and driving while an additional 1.2 million annual accidents involve cell phone use.
OMG! UR TXTS R Not That Important!
Some drivers steer with their pinkies while their thumbs do the typing. Others use their knees to guide them on the road, freeing their hands to tap out a quick message. What kind of texting driver are you? You should be the non-existent one! No text is worth risking your life or the lives of others. And if the message is that important, pull over, park and text your heart out.
Just think about this. Imagine closing your eyes for five seconds while driving. Pretty scary, huh? Well, guess what? Reading or sending a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. And when you’re driving 50-60mph, that’s like driving the length of a football field with your eyes shut!
And surprisingly, driving while drinking is not much worse than driving while texting. Yep, it’s true. Texting is like driving after having four bottles of beer. A recent study, A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver, shows that the risk of crash for driving while using a cell phone is four times that of a non-impaired driver. This turns out to be the same risk of crash for driving with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of .08%. For a driver who is texting, the risk of crash is eight times that of a non-impaired driver.
New Jersey is amongst 34 states in which text messaging while driving is banned. And New Jersey also is one of 10 states in which talking on a hand-held cell phone while driving is banned. But here are a few things to keep in mind before you put your phone in hand while in the driving seat:
- Avoid all non-driving related tasks while operating your vehicle. Driving is a visual task and non-driving activities that draw the driver’s eyes away from the roadway, such as texting and dialing, should always be avoided.
- Using a headset with your cell phone isn’t really safer than operating a hand-held –you’re still answering and dialing, causing your eyes to be off the road. Try to limit use.
- Even if you’re running late, avoid anything that takes your eyes off the road. If you must text or call into work, pull over at a rest stop.