Text alert
Don't text while driving
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Be afraid. Be very afraid.

A national survey last year found that 58 percent of high school seniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month. About 43 percent of high school juniors said they had done likewise.

If that doesn't scare the daylights out of you, nothing will.

Utah already has outlawed texting while driving, and rightly so. As a driving distraction, this ranks high as one of the most dangerous.

But texting now is so central to the relationships of young people that it is an almost irresistible force, law or no law. Kids now rely on text messages the way their parents and grandparents lived by the telephone.

The only hope may be education. Somehow, young people have got to be convinced that it's not worth risking life and limb behind the wheel to answer a text message immediately. If you can't resist reading and replying to a text when it arrives, pull over. Once you're safely off the road and stopped, text away.

We realize that's asking a lot. The immediacy of cell phone communication is what makes it so addictive. It becomes second nature. Like breathing. Young Americans can't conceive of not replying to text messages immediately. Not answering right now is considered rude.

But seriously injuring or killing yourself or someone else because you were distracted from driving by texting is simply not worth the risk.

We also realize that most people probably think they can text and drive at the same time without causing an accident. Many people, regardless of their age, believe the same about talking on a cell phone. People do it all the time.

But scientific studies clearly show that conducting conversations on electronic devices while driving distracts the brain to the point that people don't actually see what is right in front of them. Researchers call it cell phone blindness.

Texting is even worse because the eyes must be directed to the keyboard.

Oh, but I only text when I'm stopped at a light, some will say. Well, yes, except that you can't guarantee that a text conversation will stop before the light changes. Then you inevitably end up carrying on the chat while you're supposed to be driving a moving a car. Potential tragedy this way comes.

Maybe people need to be told graphic stories about deaths caused by texting drivers.

But please, don't tweet those messages. That would defeat the purpose.