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Put Down The Smartphone, and No One Gets Hurt!

     Hi, my name is Maddie, and I’m a texting driver…or a driving texter!  Whatever it’s called, we’ve all done it.  Snuck in that one innocent little text while stuck in traffic, stopped at that ridiculously long traffic light, or god forbid while zipping down the freeway.  We Americans are addicted to our smart phones, and who could blame us!  They are our personal assistants (Siri, we love you, girlfriend!), our entertainment center, our GPS, and our computer, tempting us with a tantalizing and irresistible array of gadgets and gizmos for our each and every need.

TSK TSK PARIS! Paris Hilton is one celebrity who has turned her nose up at California’s “Cell Phone Law” and has been caught in the act on several occasions.

     However, as technology gets smarter, drivers are getting dumber.  A recent study by The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) that surveyed over 6,000 drivers aged 18 and older around the nation has shown that texting while driving increased by 50 percent just in 2011.  Not exactly the New Year’s resolution we hoped to accomplish.
     Although you may be thinking, what’s all the hoopla about?!  It’s only one little text!  Sending that one text may have bigger consequences than you may think.  According to CNET’s Jennifer Guevin, a study by VirginiaTech Transportation Institute found that “texting took a driver’s focus away from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds—enough time…to travel the length of a football field at 55 mph.”
     But texting is not the only culprit.  Researchers have found that incoming emails, Twitter and Facebook, the Internet, navigation directions, and even games (*cough cough…Angry Birds!) also distract drivers.  And who is most guilty of these bad habits?  Drivers ages 21-24, of whom 50 percent admitted to texting while driving in the NHTSA survey.

UNSETTLING NEW STATISTIC. The NHTSA, in a recent study, reports that texting while driving has doubled in 2011.  The survey also found that 50 percent of drivers between the ages of 21-24 admit to texting while driving.

     Spokesman for the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Jonathan Adkins, warns that texting while driving is increasing at an alarming rate and states that “good laws and strong enforcement” rather than educational efforts alone are needed in order to see a substantial decrease in distracted driving. 
     Caution: cell phone deprivation may be in your near future.  Stricter laws have proven effective in mitigating distracted driving.  The NHTSA observed pre-and post-law enforcement patterns by examining cell phone use among drivers and distributing surveys in Syracuse and Hartford.  After enforcement efforts tightened, both cities exhibited a dramatic decline in handheld cell phone use and text messaging among drivers, with both activities dropping by 33 percent in Syracuse and handheld use by 57 percent and texting by 75 percent in Hartford.
     With statistics like these, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is pushing for a nationwide ban on all driver cell-phone usage, including hands-free and hand-held devices.  The entire board has already unanimously approved upon the recommendation.  They are determined to prevent texting tragedies like the deadly crash that happened last year in Missouri, which was mainly caused by a distracted 19 year-old driver who sent and received 11 texts in the 11 minutes preceding the accident.
     While increasingly more states are imposing cell phone restrictions that permit the use of hands-free devices, the NTSB still argues for a regulation on all electronic distractions and demands that the driver have total and complete concentration on the road.
     But don’t go see your therapist just yet!  The NTSB cannot impose this national ban, however their opinion and recommendations greatly influence federal regulators and lawmakers.
     Whether the nationwide ban is imposed or not, keep the technology temptress at bay and squelch the urge to attend to that tiny blinking red light on your Blackberry or the innocent ding ding of your iPhone.  No matter how obnoxious or tempting they may be, no message is worth a life!
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Madeline Hunt is a senior at UCLA majoring in Communication Studies with a minor in Spanish. Originally from the laidback beach-town of Santa Barbara, the California native finds the fast-paced nature and eccentricity of LA extremely exciting. Once more, she decided to expand her horizons when she studied abroad this past fall in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Madeline wants to pursue a career in the entertainment industry and is considering broadcast journalism and public relations as potential options. On campus, she is currently the Public Relations & Marketing Director for the student- run organization Fashion and Student Trends and an intern at E! News. She served as an entertainment reporter on UCLA’s accredited student newspaper, The Daily Bruin, under the video division and is a current member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. During her free time, she enjoys playing tennis, exercising, going to the beach, shopping (online shopping will be the death of her!), reading Glamour and Cosmo, eating Mexican food and sushi, spending time with her friends, practicing her Spanish, and satisfying her weakness for caffeine with Starbuck’s lattes.
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