Depending on your cell phone plan, a text message should only cost you pennies on your phone bill. But what is the price of that text message if you send it behind the wheel?
First, let’s talk about monetary costs that can add up from texting behind the wheel.
In case you are unaware, it is illegal in Utah to text and drive and has been since 2009. Utah has made this a primary law which means law enforcement can pull you over if they suspect you are texting while operating your vehicle.
Texting or e-mailing while driving is punishable by up to a $750 fine and up to 90 days in jail. If you cause injury to another person it is punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and up to 6 months in jail. If you cause a fatality and you may receive a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 15 years in prison. In March of 2012, this law was amended to be broader on prohibiting drivers from using electronic devices while driving. S.B. 98 was signed by Governor Herbert on March 19, 2012.
Texting may cost you money in the short term, but what are the long term costs if you get in an accident and hurt yourself or others?
Texting is the #1 distraction for teen drivers. DontDrive&Text.com reports that 46% of teen driver’s text while driving. However, the reality of the matter is that texting while driving is not just a teen issue, but an issue for many drivers of all ages. Studies compare testing while driving to closing your eyes for at least 5 seconds while driving down the highway. Now, of course, none of us would do that, but how many of us would glance down to read a message or even try to respond to one? Another study states that a person is 23times more likely to be in an accident if you text while you drive. Law enforcement officers describe distracted driving just as dangerous as driving under the influence.
Many other agencies, including cell phone providers and automobile insurance agencies are making efforts to get the message across to teens and adult drivers of just how dangerous texting and other distracting activities are while driving. There are many sites to visit to get more information on this important issue.
I recommend www.ut.zerofatalities.com which is an effort for the state of Utah to bring awareness and prevention to the behaviors that are killing people on Utah roads. When visiting this site, be sure to view the “Texting and driving destroys lives” video. It is a tragic example to how a simple text message can change so many lives forever.
Another site to visit is AT&T’s “It can wait” campaign to end texting while driving and promote smart use of technology. It too is a heartbreaking reminder of how lives are ended by texting while driving but also shares the stories of those who survived the tragedy. One more effort is one directed specifically at teen and young adult drivers.
The Utah Safety Council offers the “Alive at 25” course in some high schools and courts throughout the state. It is a 4-hour course taught by off-duty law enforcement officers who offer candid conversations about risky behaviors or poor decisions by young people as drivers and passengers.
I urge each reader to put the phone and other electronic devices away while driving. There are even phone apps that can be set to your phone to disable sending and receiving text messages while the phone is in a moving vehicle. I myself have struggled with the temptation to check a text, or make a call while behind the wheel. However, after researching for this blog post, I have a better understanding to how serious of an issue this is.
I have decided not to put myself or others at risk by texting behind the wheel. It is not a price that I am willing to pay. Are you?