9:30 p.m. This particular night was just like any other night for Monica Baker, a sophomore history major. Driving back to school from her backbreaking job, a cashier and stocker at a busy arts and crafts store, all Baker wanted to do was get some sleep.
She hears the faint vibration of her cell phone that was sitting on the seat beside her, and as she looks over, “one new message” lights up across the screen. Keeping the left hand on the steering wheel, she reaches over with her right to receive the message.
“It could have been urgent,” Baker said. “Plus I’m impatient. I just have to know what it says.”
An estimated 13 percent or 1.6 million teens drive while text messaging. Six thousand teens die each year in car crashes, according to the Institute for Highway Safety.
9:40 p.m. It’s a text message from Nicole. “Hey! Could you pick up a case of water on your way back? Thanks!” As Baker was writing back, she accidentally rear ended the car in front of her.
According to Allstate, 300,000 teens a year are injured as a result of a crash. Police have begun to crack down on student text messaging while driving. Fines can be up to $1,000 for violations of driving without due care and attention, according to bbhub.com.
“I couldn’t leave the person hanging; that’s why I have to write back immediately,” Baker said.
In another instance, a 17- year-old from Denver was text messaging while driving and later was found guilty of careless driving causing death. Killing a cyclist, he was sentenced to four years of probation and will serve nine days in jail, according to textually.org.
Today, text messaging while driving is almost as common as checking facebook. Many teens are clueless to the dangers of driving while texting.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do think it’s unsafe. You could really hurt yourself or kill someone else,” Baker said.
9:50 p.m. Baker is let off the hook by the other driver because there was no damage but is warned that next time she won’t get off so easily.
Julian Cruz, a junior human resource management major, said sometimes he’ll swerve around and not realize he’s almost in the other lane.
“I try to avoid texting while driving as much as possible,” Cruz said. “I try to wait to get to the next red light.”
Texting has become so important to teens that they do not even notice they are being unsafe.
“Sometimes people concentrate more on the text than driving,” Cruz said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2,600 deaths and 300,000 collisions each year are related to cell phone use.
There is an alternative to text messaging while driving. Companies like Verizon and Cingular push hands-free devices and speaker phone use and discourage texting. Headsets, ear buds and other hands-free devices cost between $21 to $119. Also the new “Bluetooth technology” is wireless and light weight.
“Hopefully we can educate students that texting while driving is extremely unsafe,” Baker said. “I hope my experience can open up their eyes.”
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