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The Daily Tar Heel

Textual healing is worth the wait

They say the first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem. Well, my name is Sam, and I have a problem.

No, I’m not an alcoholic (you can’t be an alcoholic if you’re still in college, right?), I’m not a drug addict or even a smoker. I do, however, use my cell phone while I’m driving.

I’ve justified this irresponsible act for all six years I’ve had my license because I’m a pretty safe driver and have never been in a serious accident (knock on wood).

But I’m sorry to say that it is only a matter of time before my youthful arrogance catches up with me. So, from this point forward, I pledge to the University community, nation, Mom and Dad, to stop calling, texting and brick-breaking while I’m in the car.

The Chapel Hill Town Council is currently considering legislation that would ban the use of cell phones while behind the wheel. Texting while driving is already illegal. And while I won’t speak for everyone, I can say that I personally have ignored that law for a long time.

I don’t know if enacting some legislation will actually deter anyone from using their phones while they’re driving. In fact, I have been in states where cell phones are banned while driving but still knowingly broke the law. But from this point on, regardless of whether or not the law is passed, I am going to spare the roads of my Blackberry-dominated driving habits.

The drivers and pedestrians of Chapel Hill deserve better because the statistics speak for themselves.

According to a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Utah, motorists who write text messages while driving are six times more likely to crash than those who don’t.

Can you honestly be surprised? Even if you’re an expert text messager like me, the act of sending a text requires that you look away from the road for at least a few seconds. Texts can be confusing, and often alarming (especially if you’re a N.Y. congressman). So it would make sense that texting while driving can be a major distraction.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways in 2009 in incidents that were reported to have involved “distracted driving.” Of those fatalities, 995 involved reports of a cellphone as a distraction.

And this statistic hits home the hardest: the age group with the largest proportion of “distracted drivers” was the high school and college-aged group.

I’m not telling you anything your parents haven’t already told you. And I’m as guilty as anybody has ever been.

So Mom and Dad, this week, I’m going to dig up the headset you bought me when I got my license (which would still be prohibited by the proposed law, but it’s a start). And I’m going to use it.

This new policy (if it passes) may or may not change your driving habits. But I don’t need a law to tell me what the responsible choice is.

So to the Brett Favres and Anthony Weiners of the world: wait until you reach your destination to send that text.

Sam Jacobson is the opinion editor. He is a senior political science and global studies major from Bethesda, Md. Contact him at sdjacob@email.unc.edu.

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