Texting while driving: A multitasking fallacy

Policemen may have to change their catchphrase from “Put the weapon down” to “Put the phone down.”

David Strickland, administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said that distracted driving caused 16 percent of 2009’s crash fatalities, claiming more than 5,000 lives. Eighteen percent of these distracted driving cases involved in the use of a cell phone.

Mike Jachels, public information officer at the Broward Sheriff Office, said that texting while driving is a distraction similar to eating or having a conversation while driving.

“We’re seeing a lot of it,” said Jachels. “There’s probably not a day that goes by that I don’t see someone on the road driving while texting.”

Strickland said that the NHTSA worked with cell phone providers, safety groups and state representatives to create sample legislation proposing guidelines to ban text messaging while driving.

The guidelines suggest that drivers caught texting should be fined a minimum of $75 and actions against driving privileges should be taken for first-time drivers.

Adrien Glezil, sophomore legal studies major, said he is against the proposed guidelines.

“I don’t think texting-while-driving accidents happen every day,” he said. “What if it’s important, like an e-mail from your mom? The ban isn’t right. We live in a free country. It’s an oxymoron saying that and making all these laws.”

However, Ileana Sanchez, sophomore biology major, said that she thinks the proposed guidelines are necessary but doesn’t see them becoming a powerful deterrent.

“I think that it is a good thing, but it also has its cons because if someone gets a fine it doesn’t mean they won’t do it again. There are people who will text and drive no matter what,” she said.

Alexandru Cuc, Ph.D., professor at the Center for Psychological Studies, said that because driving and texting require visual attention, people cannot do them simultaneously.

“They have to visually switch between the road and the phone, which affects your cognitive abilities,” Cuc said. “Half of your mind cannot be on the road and half on the phone because each of them requires full attention. Normally, people hold their phone on top of the steering wheel, therefore, losing some of their ability to steer.”

Strickland said that 16 percent of drivers under 20 involved in fatal crashes were distracted while driving.

Cuc said that the younger people mistakenly think that they are better ‘texters’ and drivers.

“Multitasking only works if one of the two is automatic, whereas driving and texting both require visual attention,” he said.

Jachels said that drivers need to remain focused on the road.

“Even when you stop at a red light and you’re texting, that’s unwise because you’re not paying attention to the environment,” he said. “All it takes is one slip to have a crash.”

Keith Rubin, Davie special operations division police officer assigned to NSU, said he thinks texting while driving is a problem on South Florida roads but not on campus.

“Luckily I haven’t handled any accidents on campus involving texting while driving. If I see a student texting while driving I give them a verbal warning and try to educate them on the dangers of what they’re doing,” Rubin said.

Strickland said that 32 states and the District of Columbia have texting bans. However, he said that Florida does not have any laws concerning texting while driving.

NSU does not have a policy for texting while driving, but Rubin said students may be pulled over for other violations, like veering into other lanes, because of distractions.

Written by: Keren Moros and Alyssa Sterkel

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