GUEST COLUMN: 'Don't text and drive; it can wait'
by Matt Dunlap, Maine Secretary of State
Oct 04, 2013 | 862 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
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When I first began driving, there were no cell phones and no text messages. We were taught to keep our eyes on the road and drive with two hands. We watched movies in driver’s ed class about the dangers of drinking and driving and pledged to never take the keys if we’d had anything to drink. While these important lessons are still relevant today, now drivers have even more to think about. As hundreds of thousands of Mainers enjoy the convenience of our mobile devices, we must remind each other to use them safely.

The statistics on distracted driving are alarming. Recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that texting while driving causes 1 in 4 accidents – more than 1.6 million accidents each year. In 2011 alone, more than 3,300 people were killed and 387,000 were injured because of crashes involving distracted driving. It’s a national epidemic that we’re not immune to here in Maine. A tragic 2010 accident that killed two promising teens in West Paris remains in the news today.

In Maine, texting while driving has been illegal for more than two years and carries with it a $250 fine. Unfortunately, we need to do more than just enforce the law. We need to educate drivers of all ages about the dangers of distracted driving. A survey sponsored by ConnectSafely.org showed that 90 percent of teens would stop texting while driving if a friend in the car told them to, and 44 percent said they would even be thankful for the complaint. In other words, a great way to end distracted driving is to educate each other and ask friends to stop texting.

Recently, Sept. 19 was national Drive for Pledges day. It was a part of a national awareness campaign on distracted driving called “It Can Wait.” This campaign is a great opportunity to tell our friends and fellow Mainers that we care about them and want them to be safe on the road. The simple message – It Can Wait – means that there is no text that is worth risking your life (or someone else’s) to read or type. Please take the pledge at www.itcanwait.com, and share it with your friends, your children and your parents. By educating each other we can turn the tide against distracted driving and prevent these tragedies on our roads.