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LETTER OF THE DAY - Laws needed to address texting while driving

Published:Thursday | May 17, 2012 | 12:00 AM


MY TWO recent brushes with possible serious injury by car accident, which could have led to my demise, involved drivers texting behind the wheel, and have left me shaken, angry and mindful of the lack of legislation imposing stiff penalties for drivers texting (or talking, for that matter) on their cellphones while driving. If the moronic near-car accidents I recently experienced aren't a classic example of what can happen when drivers do such things when they should be focused on the job at hand, I don't know what is. More alarming is the fact that one of the offending drivers was texting while driving at night!

Distracting adult-driving behaviour, though extremely dangerous, is commonplace the world over. Research shows that answering a text while driving takes away one's attention for about five seconds - the time it takes to travel the length of a football field. I worry that as increasing numbers of adult drivers in Jamaica indulge in sending text messages while driving, the number of road fatalities and car accidents will rise.

A survey conducted by Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company in the United States in 2007 found that of 1,200 surveyed drivers, 19 per cent say they text message while driving. In Pennsylvania alone, some 6,000 deaths, and a half million injuries, are caused by distracted drivers every year, which includes texting motorists. In the western Pennsylvania region, accidents involving texting on a cellphone rose from 168 in 2003 to a whopping 228 in 2005 — a 36 per cent increase in two years.

I am aware that there has been a commendable reduction in road fatalities generally in Jamaica, of some 20 per cent between January and March of this year compared to 2011. But until new legislation is introduced specifically targeting distracted driving behaviour due to texting, I implore all sensible motorists to increase their vigilance and alertness on our roads while driving, if only to save themselves from the action of morons.

Everton Pryce