Say no to texting behind the wheel

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 6, 2011

The video lasts 10 excruciating minutes — and should be shown to every person who has ever or will ever have the inkling to text while driving.

It shows a Missouri state trooper recalling his first fatal accident, pointing to where he found shoes, and a body, and the remains of a cell phone. The text message the driver read: OK. Police concluded that the driver reading the text message led directly to her car careening off the highway, across a median and into an overpass.

That SUV just as easily could have careened into oncoming traffic, and this video shows those results as well. Final messages such as “where r” and “LOL” were the last written and read as victims and victims’ families recalled the horrors of texting while driving.

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I have done it. Many of you have done it. So many on the roads every day are doing it. Ten minutes is all it took to know I won’t do it again. Ever.

What makes texting while driving so bad is no matter how graceful one is with the keyboard, there is a natural inclination to look down at the screen. Studies have shown a driver traveling at 40 mph who takes eyes off the road for 5 seconds can travel more than 100 yards — a football field. Would one ever close their eyes for 5 seconds while driving? One-thousand-one, one-thousand-two, one-thousand-three, one-thousand-four, one-thousand five. Say it again. And again.

The damage that can be done in 100 yards is frightening.

Mississippi lawmakers are working to become the latest state to ban texting while driving. Twenty-nine other states have passed similar legislation. Mississippi must be No. 30.

Urge lawmakers to join this cause and watch that video. Show it before the full House and Senate before a vote is taken.

Passing a law will not solve this problem, but it certainly won’t hurt it, either. Enforcement of such a law will be difficult as well, because texters are sneaky. Catching them in the act will take some luck, some extra training and relying on others to show a semblance of responsibility.

We also can hope for everyone who has, or ever will think of texting while driving to bear witness to that sobering video. It won’t convince everyone, but if it makes one person put down the phone when behind the wheel, it’s worth it.

Sean P. Murphy is web editor. He can be reached at