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Distracted driving has no age limit
distracted driving is everyone's problem

Date published: 10/6/2012

THIS WEEK THE Huffington Post had a nice piece on teenagers and the danger of texting while driving, accompanied by a slide show of worst celebrity drivers, including Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Charlie Sheen.

Don't be like Lindsay, Britney and Charlie, kids! Assuming that you know who they are!

The thing is that much like drinking and driving, distracted driving is a problem that spans generations. It's not just a young person's problem, even when it comes to cell phones. In recent years, voice turn-by-turn GPS directions have undoubtedly saved the lives of quite a few middle-aged people. Without them many would be glancing at paper maps while their vehicle is in motion--or arguing with their spouse because they missed an exit. Ahem.

In an area like ours, where so many people are commuters who spend three or four frustrating hours a day on the road, the temptation for adults to check e-mail or text while driving is great.

AT&T deserves a lot of credit for its "It Can Wait" campaign, which in recent weeks has led to over a million pledges to abstain from texting while driving.

The effort was inspired when a friend of an AT&T employee died while texting and driving.

According to the National Safety Council, texting and driving is a factor in more than 100,000 car crashes a year.

When Car & Driver magazine did a test comparing the dangers of driving while legally drunk at an .08 percent blood alcohol level to texting and driving--both on an airport runway at 70 miles per hour--it found that texting is far worse:

Unimpaired: .54 seconds to brake

Legally drunk: add four feet

Reading e-mail: add 36 feet

Sending a text: add 70 feet

"For some, pledging to never text and drive is common sense," blogged Charlene Lake, AT&T senior vice president for public affairs.

According to Lake, 140 organizations have jumped on the "It Can Wait" bandwagon, among them the American Federation of Teachers, Big Brothers Big Sisters, DECA, the FCC, the NAACP, the National Safety Council, SADD and the U.S. Department of Transportation.

"We still have a lot more to do," Lake said, urging people to go to ItCanWait.com. "Take the pledge and become part of a movement that's changing behavior and saving lives."

Pledges can also be made via Twitter (#itcanwait) and Facebook.

Whether we're 16 or 60, whether we're texting or changing the radio station or putting on makeup, we all need to be reminded from time to time just how dangerous distracted driving is.

Michael Zitz: 540/846-5163
Email: mikez@freelancestar.com