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Deadly Habits

There is a deadly addiction that is putting everyone in danger: texting while driving.


After a 20-year-old East Texas man was charged with criminally negligent homicide for causing an accident that resulted in the death of a young woman, students are now seeing that texting while driving cannot be just fa- tal but also result in criminal charges.

“This is a very serious charge,” DPS Spokesperson Trooper Jean Dark said. “This is not just a misdemeanor, this is a felony and people have to start paying attention to what is going on while they are driving.”

According to Dark, negligence while driving ranges from texting or talking on the phone to putting on make-up while driving and even in- cludes bad vehicle maintenance. If the negligence leads to a death, then the driver can be charged with negligent homicide.

“Criminally negligent homicide is a charge that is for anyone who is op- erating a motor vehicle; basically any- one that we can show was negligent in their actions and that that negligence caused the death of another person,”Dark said. Even though in Texas phone use while driving is not illegal in most circumstances, it is very risk taking.

“It’s not against the law to be on your cell phone when you’re driving down the road, it’s just dangerous,”Tyler Police Department public information officer Don Martin said.

“Plus your insurance company might not like it, but bottom line you’re not really violating any laws by being on your phone until they come out with a law that says you can’t drive and be on the phone at the same time,” said Martin.

Texas does have some laws in effect towards phone usage while driving. The law bans learners’ permit holders in the first six months of driving, school bus drivers while driving if children are present and drivers under the age of 17 with restricted licenses from the use of cell phones and texting devices while driving.

The most recent law established in Tex- as outlaws drivers from using handheld cell phones in marked and active school crossing zones.

“If you’re using a phone but you’re on a hands free device, Bluetooth or whatever, that is allowed,” Martin said. “If you’ve got the phone up to your ear or you’re texting, then you’re in violation of the law.”

Bans on texting and phone use while driving have also been established in many states. According to Oprah.com, 19 states have banned texting while driving and seven states have banned using a handheld cell phone while driving.

Even though the bans are designed to help, a study released September 28, 2010 from the Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) states that since the bans, accidents have actu- ally increased.

“Texting bans haven’t reduced crashes at all,” said president of both HLDI and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Adrian Lund in a press release. “In a perverse twist, crashes increased in three of the four states we studied after the bans were enacted. It’s an indi- cation that texting bans might even increase the risk of texting for drivers who continue to do so despite the laws.”

According to HLDI, young drivers are more likely to text while driving. The group most likely to text is 18 to 24-year-olds.

“Unfortunately in today’s society we live in such a world where technology is pretty much for the most part the way we live,” government major, Cory Smith said. “You’ve got your Fa- cebook on your phone, texting, calling, Twitter and I think a lot of kids these days can’t stay away from what’s being said about them on Fa- cebook or Twitter or whatever. So I think that the need is there to answer that when a text or whatever comes through.”

HLDA also says that noncompliance is the most likely reason that texting bans aren’t reducing crashes. Survey results specify that many drivers ignore the bans. According to the survey, many people who knew texting was ille- gal said they did not believe police were strongly enforcing the bans.

“But this doesn’t explain why crashes in- creased after texting bans,” Lund said. “If driv- ers were disregarding the bans, then the crash patterns should have remained steady. So clear- ly drivers did respond to the bans somehow and what they might have been doing was moving their phones down and out of sight when they texted in recognition that what they were doing was illegal. This could exacerbate the risk of texting by taking drivers’ eyes further from the road and for a longer time.”

Because of so many fatal crashes caused by distracted drivers on their phones, organizations against using the phone while driving have ap- peared. This includes Oprah Win- frey’s “No Phone Zone” campaign.

Through this campaign, Oprah is asking people to sign a “No Phone Zone” pledge that states the signer will not text and/or talk on the phone while driving.

“I would do the texting pledge,” sophomore Carlie Castagno said. “But I mean if I’m in the car going to Wal-Mart and my mom calls me and says hey, pick up this, I’m not just go- ing to ignore her phone call. I would definitely do the texting because that’s probably a safer idea but there could be like an emergency or something and I might need to pick up my phone while I’m driving.”

Since the campaign’s start in January 2010, the number of pledges is.

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