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Text messaging while driving is wrong regardless of driver's age

Tuesday, May 26, 2009 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 10:26 a.m. CST, Thursday, February 18, 2010

As a sixth-generation Missourian, I have never thought of the people of our state as frivolous or immature. But that’s exactly how I felt after reading that the state legislature had passed a bill that would make it unlawful for motorists 17 and under to send or receive text messages while driving except in emergencies. At the time of this writing, the bill is awaiting the governor’s signature.

Now I can understand how passage of this bill would make the legislators feel that they had performed a public service. My problem is that I don’t see what age has to do with it. The wordage of this bill seems to imply that it’s OK for people over 17 to practice this ridiculous procedure. The fact is, that an out of control automobile is a lethal weapon, capable of killing or doing great harm to a human being. Personally, I think it should be unlawful for anyone to do this because it means that the automobile is not under his or her total control at the time they are text messaging. Are these messages so important that an individual cannot pull over to the side of the street and send it? How much value do we place on human life?

It just seems to me that sometimes our advanced technology is causing us to lose our common sense. I realize that we all like to think of ourselves as multi-taskers, capable of doing many things at once, but at the same time in our private moments most of are aware of our own shortcomings. Not only are people taking their hands and their minds from full attention to guiding their cars to talk on the phone and type messages, but they are also managing their coffee cup to drink from it, applying makeup to their face and painting their fingernails. And everyday we hear or read news stories about accidents that have been caused by this inattention.

As far as I’m concerned the only reason this lack of attention to driving is allowed to continue is because we have defined freedom as the ability to do anything we want to do at any time we want to do it.

So naturally the threat to human life has taken a back seat to the legislator’s fear of being thrown out of office because they have taken away privileges that should never been allowed in the first place. I truly believe that the majority of us are grown up enough that we don’t have to have a loved one hurt or killed by an inattentive driver to know that this is an unsafe practice.

Now, I know that some individuals feel that they have a constitutional right to use their technology when and where they please. To me this falls in the same category as a person’s right to use their freedom of speech to yell "fire" in a crowded theater. It gets down to the acceptance that actions have consequences and when you have truly learned that fact, it seems to me, you lose the desire to participate in activities that are potentially harmful to other people.

I always think of people from the Show-Me State as leaders, not followers. I like to think that if the other 49 states adopt this kind of law, Missourians will weigh the consequences and hang "tough." So, I guess the legislature just proved me wrong. But somehow I still can’t bring myself to compare us with the other idiots who think this kind of behavior is well and good.

Actually, less than an hour ago, I was waiting at a stop light when a woman directly across from me proceeded to run the light while talking on her cell phone. This is not a rare occurrence. It’s one I encounter several times a week. Text messaging requires even more concentration.

I’m sure with the development of more hand-held gadgets, people will find more things to do while they drive. And with more and more cars on the road the situation will become even more dangerous. I guess we have come to the point where the fact that certain behavior is unwise and unsafe is not a good enough reason not to do it. It has to be made illegal if we are to be prevented from the practice.

So, it’s OK to call me old-fashioned. Believe me, I’d rather be considered out of touch rather than downright stupid. I can do several things at once, but I only intend to do them if they will not cause harm to other people.

Perhaps, I don’t have as many emergency messages to receive and send as some people do. If it comes to that, I guess I’ll just have to stay at home and sit by the telephone.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling her at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net.

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Comments

Anne Fisher May 26, 2009 | 8:52 a.m.

Before commenting on the bill, perhaps you should read it.You state that "The wordage of this bill seems to imply that it’s OK for people over 17 to practice this ridiculous procedure," However, the bill provides that "no person twenty-one years of age or younger operating a moving motor vehicle upon the highways of this state shall, by means of a hand-held electronic wireless communications device, send, read, or write a text message or electronic message." You may have a point that texting while driving is dangerous regardless of age, but try getting the facts down first.

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