Driving while intexicated

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By John Pawlak

 DWI, Driving While Intexticated.  This cute buzzphrase is becoming more and more popular as more and more people are driving into more and more trees while texting their friends.
 But driving under the influence of phone is no joke.  Visiting the morgue to identify the body of your child underscores the somber reality of cell phone usage while driving.  Studies show that simply using a cell phone while driving impairs one’s ability as much as having had four bottles of beer. And texting while driving is far more dangerous.
 One of the more interesting studies comes from a most definitely-not academic oriented organization, Car and Driver.  They conducted their own road test to see the effects of texting.  Their results were “sobering” to say the least.  Their drivers performed better while drunk than they did while texting.
 Earlier this year, Chance Bothe, a college student, became the posterboy for the dangers of texting when he drove off a cliff seconds after texting “I need to quit texting.”  Miraculously, he survived, but sustained brain injuries and broke nearly every bone in his body.
Chance is hardly unique.  Last year, 1/4th of all auto collisions were attributed to the use of cell phones.  That’s 1.3 million collisions, one collision every 24 seconds.
 Of course, anything that distracts you while driving increases your chance of having an accident.  But texting makes a crash 23 times more likely!
 You don’t need a research grant to understand that texting while driving is dangerous, yet people continue to do it.  You’ll see them driving down Central holding the phone outstretched as they punch in a message.  Is this really that surprising?  Evidence of lung cancer from smoking cigarettes does little to stop people from smoking.  Why should the dangers of texting while driving be given any more credence?
 Well, for one thing, the worse a smoker might do to me is accidentally burn me with some ashes.  For the texter, there’s the minor issue of the 2,000 pound death mobile they’re driving at 45 mph.
 Do the math.  When driving 45 mph, you’re moving at about 66 feet per second.  If a driver’s attention to the road is distracted for a “brief” 5-second text message, they’ve traveled 330 feet without watching traffic.  That’s 110 yards, longer than a football field,
 Over a third of teenagers admit to texting while driving, but if you talk about the dangers of doing this, they will insist that they can text while driving safely.  “I can do both at once.  I have no problem concentrating on two things at the same time.”
  Alright then, try this simple test.  As fast as you can, recite the alphabet from A to J.  OK, that’s easy enough.  Now count backwards, as fast as you can, from 10 to 1.  Again, pretty easy.
 Now do both at the same time.  Try “interlacing” those two simple tasks.  A 10 B 9 C 8 and so on.  I got it started for you.  Just recite those two as fast as you can.
 Text got your tongue?  Given how difficult this simple task is, imagine what your brain is doing (or not doing) when you are texting while driving.  With over 200 billion text messages sent each year in the US, the virtual highway and actual highways are colliding with devastating results.
 It may be impossible to stop people from texting while driving, but the wheels of justice slowly gaining traction.  Earlier this year, a driver in Massachusetts was found guilty of vehicular homicide.  While texting, he lost control of his car and swerved into oncoming traffic, killing the driver of a truck.  More lawsuits against texting drivers are now pending.
 So, you DWI all the time and haven’t had have an accident?  Well then, you’re lucky.  If there’s only a 1 out of 1,000 chance of an accident when text-driving, and you only do it once a day, you have a 30 percent chance of having an accident within a year.  In a two year span, you have even odds.
  Be smart and don’t fight the math.  Remember, texting and driving don’t mix!
  John Pawlak
 Los Alamos Columnist