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Death By Texting: Driving Distractions On The Road

Updated on September 7, 2011

4.6 Seconds to Death

Little known to most HubPages officianados, I am not only an eccentric oil painter and creative writer, I also teach Driver's Education. That's right, let the demystification begin...now.

Recently, my classroom was visited by newscaster David Douglas from Channel 3 here in Madison. The crew came into my class while we were observing a remotely scientific experiment where I tossed a ball to some of the students. Some of the students were just asked to walk across the room and catch the ball. Others were asked to text and try to catch the ball at the same time. As you can imagine, those that were texting were more distracted, and caught less of the balls and therefore, metaphorically, failed to address risks and obstacles succinctly. The expression of sheer unamusement from one of the students is tantamount to many teenagers attitudes about texting restrictions and text ban statutes.

My students opine the pros and cons of new anti-texting anti-hand-held-device laws. Here in Wisconsin our State became the 25th to ban texting while driving. The laws are set to solidify on Decemeber 1st as the United States Department of Transportation looks to change people's behavior through law, citing the over 6000 people killed due to distraction in the States last year.

The United States Department of Transportation estimates reading an average text lasts 4.6 seconds, at 55 miles per hour, one would travel the length of a football field (including endzones) as though blindfolded, due to texting distraction. These facts paint a gruesome picture.


Texting is a very real problem with all drivers regardless of age

Digital Art By Ben Zoltak Adobe Photoshop All Image Rights Reserved By Ben Zoltak
Digital Art By Ben Zoltak Adobe Photoshop All Image Rights Reserved By Ben Zoltak | Source

Texting reality versus the legal ideal...

I was recently hit by a distracted driver while two of my students and myself were stopped at a stop sign. The woman who hit us decided to look for the cell phone she dropped while she was turning left. We were completly stopped when she rammed head on into us. Luckily no one was hurt, though our vehicle was totalled.

Some students and adults that I speak with talk about studies (as of yet, I haven't found links to these...) that say that laws banning texting might increase accidents by having drivers hide their texting. My job is to teach students the laws as produced by the Department of Transportation. Although we do engage in forum and dialogue about the pros and cons of everything driving related. A fellow Driving Instructor who was a former Semi-truck driver told me he saw an increase in accidents related to distraction as cell phones became more popular. So for me, for now, the wind blows in the direction of the texting-ban, and that is what I teach. Further studies are warranted though I believe, if in fact, there's any merit to the "text hiding" argument.

As for me, I have been adapting to turning off the volume. It's not easy, and better to be realistic and pull over when it's safe to get the communique done. For those of us who have grown used to texting, it really is a lifestyle change.


Read more articles from Ben Zoltak and stay alive!!!

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    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 4 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks Moonlake. All that lady needed was a burger and soda in the mix and she sounds like she was ready to wrap her machine around a tree! It's a tough addiction to break, but your life, and others', depends on it!!!

      Ben

    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 4 years ago from America

      I see people talking on the phone that can't drive, texting while driving is the worst. We saw a woman today trying to drive, smoke and talk on the phone she was all over the road. Great hub voted up.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 6 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks Dave I agree, it seems to be a problem that is going to get worse before it gets better.

    • David Resnick profile image

      David Resnick 6 years ago from New York, NY

      Great Hub.

      Raising awareness of distracted driving is very important.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Cool beans Jane, thanks again. I was trying to figure out which department to send it to here but after seeing the canned response you got, I'll probably just send one out to their general email and as you say, nothing ventured nothing gained.

      Where I live, in the state of Wisconsin, many people call drinking fountains "bubblers" haha, talk about informal!

      Thanks again daisy flower Jane.

      Ben

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Meant to add.. yes now that you mention it *indicators* does sound very stuffy and formal, heh. And yes, it would be great to meet the family.

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Ben, I just had a message from the RTA..

      "Your email has been forwarded to the appropriate department for their attention."

      Hmmmm...at least it's been acknowledged.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Aw thanks Jane you are a gem! I just found out today that one of my students' parents are from Australia originally. She informed me that in Australia they call what we call signals "indicators" which for some reason really made me laugh! Here in Wisconsin, most people locally call them "blinkers", haha.

      On a more serious note, thank you kindly for being so generous with your time. What an amazingly magnanimous person you are! So as you say, nothing ventured nothing gained, meanwhile, this should inspire me to get a letter out to the DOT here. I've been busy setting up my winter painting studio as snow is about to fall soon and the outdoor studio won't cut it once it drops below freezing for the next five months.

      Anyway thanks again, you've really made my day Miss Bovary. Would be something for you to meet the family wouldn't it? I'll have to look for more art opportunities in Australia.

      Warmest regards,

      Ben

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Hey Ben..update. I just wrote to the RTA (yes we do call it that) and sent them a link and pitch. I don't know if that's how you go about these things...but nothing ventured nothing gained eh?

      It'd be great to see the Zoltaks in Australia. Good luck!

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks for coming back Jane. Interesting concept. Huh. Well I guess I don't see why not, here we have the Department of Transportation and the Department of Motor Vehicles. They buy art, but it's one of the bureaucracies that usually are pretty rigid considering the business they're in, but this is a great idea thanks! Help me sell the image to the Australian Road Traffic Authority (the RTA you probably call it eh?) Then I can take the family down under and get some inspiration sitting on your white sand beaches and tackling some kangaroo!

      I love Australia!

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks Laura I have had some thoughts about marketing my are to schools, I'll be in touch!

      Ben

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Ben, they look great! Very schmick.

      I'm thinking a billboard too...:)

      What about contacting the road traffic authority? (I don't know what it's called in America). They might buy it off you. No reason why you can't help humanity AND make a profit. Plus the message is international.It would go down well in Australia, for example. They're always looking for new safety ad campaigns directed at young drivers.

      See you

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 7 years ago from Aurora

      Colorado has banned texting while driving for 18 and younger. Go figure! It's bad for all.

      I love your digital art. Do you market this to schools or want to?

      *Laura*

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Jane, I couldn't do the giant poster, the original art was too small of an image. But I was able to do a few things with t-shirts and stickers and what not. Thanks for the encouragement, I'm going to make a few more things with my HubPages images. Here's the link to one of the shirts, what do you think?

      http://www.cafepress.com/BenZoltak/7429827

      Thanks again for your support!

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks for the encouragement, I am highly incorrigible and easily encouraged, haha. Alright, it's a challenge then. I have an account with cafepress.com , I'm going to see if I can find that dusty old password. Then we'll see if the image can translate! Check back sunshine!

      Ben

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Ben,

      Yes we sure do use mobile phones in public places...annoyingly so! I believe we're one of the biggest uses in the world per population. We're just not s'posed to use them while we're driving.

      That would make a great poster. Do it!

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Hey Jane I might just go with your poster idea, if I do I'll post a link here!

      I think the newest generation of drivers here in the US are coming to grips with avoiding texting and driving. Unfortunately, others want a "right to bear mobile phones" amendment to our constitution! I wonder if people use their mobile phones in public places in Australia? Here they do a lot, my father in law just returned from France and he said no one drives with them or uses them much at all in public.

      Always glad to get a visit from you Jane. Cheers!!!

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Web Developer, thanks for the ironic comment, it's true I'm afraid. It is a jawdropper and a real temptation.

      Thanks for reading.

      Ben

    • Jane Bovary profile image

      Jane Bovary 7 years ago from The Fatal Shore

      Hi Ben,

      Jeeze I'm amazed it's not illegal everywhere already. Talking on a mobile phone(that's what we call them here)while driving has been banned for some time in Australia. As to texting and driving...well sheesh...if you allow that then why not reading the newspaper or playing scrabble while you drive?!

      The trick is education(your digital art should be a poster!)...you want people to stop texting and driving, not just because it's illegal but because they realise the folly of it. Text hiding will hopefully be less of an issue then.

      Catch you later

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks GL, the 100 is back! It's a tough road of give and take with texting. We all want that extra freedom and communication it seems, but there's a price to pay if we're not careful.

      Best,

      Ben

    • profile image

      Web Developer 7 years ago

      It seems like the standards for 'stupid' get lower in some ways. I used to think that talking on the cell phone while driving was plenty foolish, and these days I'm finding out how common texting while driving is. Its a jaw dropper.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      colonial, I don't about banning all texting, lol, although sometimes it does irritate me in any situation. Mostly with other drivers though! Thanks for reading and chiming in!!

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Hello hello, thanks for the insight and I agree with you about raising the topic. Better to deal with it through dialogue than just watch as the problem gets worse.

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      dallas, in the old days of cowboys, they would hire people who knew songs, to keep them entertained, what a great thing, that learning was alone, a gift and a commodity.

      Thanks for reading my work !!!

      Ben

    • blackmarx profile image

      blackmarx 7 years ago from Rice Lake, WI

      Well then, it sucks to be grandma in the back seat LOL. You know we got along just fine with out car texting in the past. Personally I think texting is abused regardless of heavy machinery.

      I really like the ball exercise, I am gonna use that to make my point next time I have the texting and driving discussion with my step son.

      keep on hubbin brother.

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      First off, thanks blackmarx, for recognizing my art. Second, I like your suggestion although I already see a small hole in the logic. For example, what if Grandma wants to text in the back seat but her cell wont' work at 55 miles per hour. Then what would your Grandma do blackmarx! Use a wireless telegraph? I don't think so! LOL. Regardless, I appreciate your angle here, and agree with you about rebellion. Giving up that freedom isn't something Americans do easy. I'm inclined to agree with you about hiding, but so far, the experts say no, so I have to teach the new rules of the ban.

      Thanks for the poignant response amigo.

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks Pamela for your vote against texting while driving. I agree with your statement that no matter how good a driver you are, you may not see that deer running across the road while you are texting your significant other the ingredients to your rib sauce or some such thing!

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks for backing me up SteveoMc! Your comment and unabashed honesty really made me laugh. The true measure of a man must be his ability to admit when he's not so good at something!!! I am still working on that. Thanks also for registering your opinion as I know you are one to keep his witz about em'.

      Cheers!

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks attemptedhumour, along with my fellow coworker, a former trucker, you are the second to advocate a ban of texting while driving because of the anecdotal evidence you've experienced. I'd be curious as to your opinion on whether people would hide their texts and therefore pay less attention to the road? What do you think?

      Well done with the bees! Calmness works wonders on the road!

      Cheers mate!

      Ben

    • Green Lotus profile image

      Hillary 7 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      This is excellent Ben. They only recently banned texting in Georgia. I think even talking on a cell that isn't on a speakerphone should be illegal. I know it is in some states. Rated up! Hey I noticed your 100 hubscore yesterday...cool!

    • colonial82 profile image

      colonial82 7 years ago from Ohio

      Great Hub, texting needs to be outlawed throughout the country.

      Have a great day :)

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 7 years ago from London, UK

      I fully agree with you that texting while driving is so dangerous. Don't people realize that each needs full concentration. Great hub, Ben, and good idea to raise the subject.

    • dallas93444 profile image

      Dallas W Thompson 7 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

      What did our folks do with out a process, or method to "communicate" while they were on their horses... What makes it necessary to risk life, or limb to share what Lady Gaga did?

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Thanks Suziecat! I agree, I have tendency to yammer away while driving too! Texting may be as tough to quit.

      Thanks for reading again!

      Ben

    • Ben Zoltak profile image
      Author

      Ben Zoltak 7 years ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      mynameisnotpaul: thanks for the affirmation and I agree. All drivers, including this middle aged male, need to address this issue realistically! Thanks for revisiting mninp!

      Ben

    • blackmarx profile image

      blackmarx 7 years ago from Rice Lake, WI

      Nice artwork. I admit I have become more secretive about my texting while driving lately and. I would have to agree with the statement that more will be hiding this activity, which could become a bigger distraction then before. I also agree it is very dangerous to text while behind the wheel. But I disagree with the ban, it has become the normal for the powers that be to find a problem and ban it or make it illegal instead of find a more effective solution. You see it is human nature to rebel, so when we are told we can not do something we tend to continue doing and sometimes increasing the frequency just to spite those giving the orders.

      I suggest making the cell service provider use technology to solve the problem. Maybe they could program the texting feature to not work when the phone is in movement faster then 10 mph. it should be simple enough using gps. Disabling the ability to text is a much more effective solution. Of course training and leadership by parents would help too.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      Good hub and I agree that texting should be banned while driving. You can't truly pay attention to driving if you texting, no matter how good you are.

    • SteveoMc profile image

      SteveoMc 7 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

      I knew there was something that I liked about you! Now I know, you have nerves of steel. I never text while I am driving. I am a crappy driver and I can run into stuff without any distractions and this would not be a good idea for me. Glad you are pushing the no distractions angle, it will save lives.

    • attemptedhumour profile image

      attemptedhumour 7 years ago from Australia

      I sit a little higher up in my tipper truck and have a good view of people's antics behind the wheel. So many people are texting away that it is inevitable that more fatalities and injuries will occur. Of course it should be banned. I was driving home from work today when i drove into a swarm of bees. It's the first time i have ever experienced this and it was quite a surprise. Years of driving enabled me to still concentrate on the main danger around and in front of me, even though about six or seven bees came in through both open windows. A less experienced driver may have panicked. Yes your experiment was a great commonsense example, but some teenagers cannot relate the danger to themselves. I was one myself. Cheers Ben, as usual an insightful and interesting hub.

    • suziecat7 profile image

      suziecat7 7 years ago from Asheville, NC

      Really enjoyed this Hub. Texting while driving is even worse than yacking while driving and that's bad enough.

    • mynameisnotpaul profile image

      mynameisnotpaul 7 years ago from Kentuckeh'

      I really like the fact that you mentioned the experiment in the beginning to help put things into perspective. I think kids have harder time with understanding the dangers of texting while driving because they aren't even completely used to driving and the dangers of it, alone.

      Great read. Keep on keeping on.