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Recently I came across a story about a girl named Ashley. She came from a great family, she was very talented and had lots of promise after high school. She was great at multi-tasking and being efficient with her time. Her friends claimed that there was no one like her. She could do many things at once and most of the time she could be texting and having a conversation while doing it. Texting came naturally to her; she did it while doing most things. If she was bowling, she would text while doing it. If she was reading or doing homework, she would text. One day, Ashley was driving and looked down to read a text message that her sister had sent. As she replied, she looked up to see, she clipped the median and flipped her truck. As it was flipping she was ejected from the vehicle through the drivers side door and landed in a ditch about 300 feet from her truck. One text message is all it took to end the life of this high school stand-out.

Unfortunately, Ashley’s story isn’t unique. There are many more lives that have been affected by texting behind the wheel. In 2010, driver distraction was the cause of 18 percent of all fatal crashes – with 3,092 people killed – and crashes resulting in an injury – with 416,000 people wounded*. Those are huge numbers and the worst part is that it’s 100 percent preventable.

There are three types of distractions while driving. Each and every one is dangerous. The first distraction is visual. It happens when you take your eyes off the road. This includes things such as looking at a billboard, building, or the next car next to you. The second is physical distraction. This occurs when you take your hand or hands off the wheel whether it’s to put a CD in or to reach for a french fry. The final one is cognitive distraction. This is when your attention is somewhere other than driving. Maybe you have a bad day at work or issues at home. It’s a mental distraction from driving. Each of these occur on a regular basis but texting while driving is all three.

Most people know it’s dangerous but most people still do it. 35 states have laws that ban texting while driving. Another seven states ban new drivers from texting while driving. While this is a step in the right direction, laws don’t help if people aren’t going to make an effort to follow them. Texting is a choice: a dangerous choice. We all need to make an effort to do better.

Did you know that some people actually feel that if they don’t respond to a text message that their friend or family member might get upset or offended? Your loved ones should care about your safety more than a response, and if they don’t, you may want to reevaluate the relationship. Think about it this way: How would you feel if your friend or family member were injured or killed responding to your text message?

Here are some things that you can do to avoid texting while driving:

Download an app. There are apps from AT&T, Verizon, and Sprint that can be download at http://www.itcanwait.com/apps/ where an automatic text reply will be sent when you are driving. You can usually personalize it to say what you want, like “Hey, I’m driving. I’ll text you when I am done.”

2. Call, don’t text. If you need to let someone know you are running behind use a hands-free headset or sync your phone to your car’s audio and call them instead.

3. Assign a designated texter. If you are driving with a passenger, have them read aloud and reply to your text for you.

4. Put it on silent and put it away. If you put your phone on silent and out of reach, you want to tempted to check it as often.

5. Speak up. If you notice a friend or family member texting while driving, don’t remain silent. Tell them to put it down and stop. It’s dangerous.

There are many other alternatives to texting and driving than just those mentioned above. But the best way to do it is to remember that it can wait.

*National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

Written by Matthew Perry
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