Not only a law, but a lifesaver: put the phone down, save lives on the road

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Not only a law, but a lifesaver: put the phone down, save lives on the road

“I’ll be fine. It won’t happen to me.” That may be what 18-year-old Mariah West assumed before sending the text that cost her life.

“I’ll be fine. It won’t happen to me.”

That may be what 18-year-old Mariah West assumed before sending the text that cost her life.

“Where you at?” This was the message she was responding to when her car hit a bridge, flipped upside down, and skidded on its roof, partially throwing West from the vehicle. She died eight days later.

No doubt she’d heard the stories about people who text and drive and get into terrible accidents. But, like so many of us, she probably thought that was something that happened only to other people. It could never happen to her. But it did.

Like West, most young adults think they’re safe — that they’ll take precautions, that they’ll be careful enough. According to textinganddrivingsafety.com, 77 percent of young adults are very or somewhat confident that they can safely text while driving.

But sending one text message accounts for at least five seconds of distracted driving. Moving at a speed of 55 mph, a vehicle will travel the length of a football field during that time. Let that sink in: traveling the length of a football field down a traffic-filled highway without looking. Now that’s scary.

While texting and driving makes being involved in an automobile accident 23 times more likely, dialing while driving involves 2.8 times more risk, reaching for the device involves 1.4 times more risk, and talking or listening involves 1.3 times more risk of crash.

Surfing the Internet is another problem distraction with which mobile devices tempt motorists. One in five drivers of all ages confess to surfing the Web while driving.

In light of the dangers presented by distracted driving, the Greenville City Council recently passed an ordinance banning distracted driving, more specifically the use of handheld mobile devices while operating a vehicle in the city of Greenville.

This ordinance, which goes into effect April 1, allows the use of only those mobile devices that can be used hands free while operating a vehicle. That means you’ll no longer be permitted to hold a mobile device up to your ear to talk or listen or hold a device in your hand to manipulate a screen or keyboard. If the device can’t be used hands free, you must be legally parked in order to use it.

Once the ordinance goes into effect, distracted driving can result in a fine of up to $100 plus court costs. But more than just a fine, distracted driving can cost lives.

In 2012 alone, distracted driving accounted for 3,328 deaths and 421,000 injuries, according to distraction.gov.

So don’t just obey this new rule within the city limits to keep from having to pay a fine. Don’t drive distracted anywhere. It’s awfully tempting to answer that text while you’re sitting at a stoplight or to pick up that phone call you’ve been expecting. But don’t even give yourself that option. Turn off the phone and put it away every time you get in the driver’s seat.

Terrible accidents like what happened to Mariah West do happen, and they can happen to you.