Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 14, 2013

Setting an example: Adult texting violations alarming

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

— — It’s no secret that adults are expected to lead by example. How else can we expect our children to grow up and become well-behaved, law-abiding citizens.

However, a new report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety would suggest that some adults are not setting a good example for their children when it comes to talking and texting on the cellphone while driving. And if Mom and Dad are going to talk and text on the cellphone while driving, it is hard to tell their children — many who are teens of a legal driving age — not to do the same.

The new research from AAA found that high school-aged teens report using their phones or texting while driving substantially less often than adults do. While the public often cites teens as being the most common offenders, the survey found that adult drivers ages 25 to 39 were the most likely to admit engaging in these risky behaviors behind the wheel.

And recent citation statistics from the West Virginia State Police would seem to reflect this trend. Officers with the Governor’s Highway Safety Program issued 286 citations and gave 108 warnings to motorists from July 1 to Nov. 30, the Register-Herald in Beckley reported last week.

 “It’s noteworthy that the young novice drivers are using their phones while driving less than older drivers since, given their inexperience, they are especially susceptible to distracted driving crashes,” AAA District Office Supervisor Kathy Combs said. “At the same time, it is discouraging that cellphone usage picks up when drivers gain more experience, as using a phone can lead to dangerous distractions behind the wheel.”

The research found that two out of three drivers reported using a cellphone while driving within the past month. Another 43 percent of adults ages 25 to 39 reported doing so fairly often or regularly while driving compared to only 20 percent of teens. Motorists age 60 and up were the least likely to report using a phone while driving, which in itself was welcomed news.

A little common sense, would suggest that texting while driving is a very dangerous habit. It’s also now illegal in both West Virginia and Virginia.

“Using your phone while driving may seem safe, but it roughly quadruples your risk of being in a crash according to previous research,” Combs said. “None of us is immune from the dangers of distracted driving. The best advice is to hang up and drive.”

We agree. But more than one-in-four motorists reported sending a text or email while driving within the past month. And adults ages 25 to 39 reported texting and driving the most frequently. This is clearly a bad and dangerous habit that must stop.

We realize that it may still take time for some to understand that the new anti-texting and talking while driving without a hands-free device laws are now in effect in both Virginia and West Virginia. But the law is the law. And we are all expected to follow the new rules.

Adult drivers should set a good example for their children — and particularly teenagers who may be of driving age. They shouldn’t talk — and certainly not text — while driving in a vehicle with or without their children present.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, one out of every 10 fatal crashes involves distraction resulting in more than 3,000 deaths per year. Don’t be a distracted driver.

And please don’t be a distracted driver in front on a teenager or minor. Set a good example for younger passengers in the vehicle. Practice safe driving habits. Please obey the new laws.