Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Independent Student Newspaper for the University of Texas at San Antonio

The Paisano

Driving while in’text ’icated

News steering wheel

Texting while driving is a national epidemic that is quickly becoming one of the country’s top killers. Drivers assume they can handle texting while driving and remain safe, but the numbers say otherwise. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), texting while driving is about six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated. In 2012, 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, a 9 percent increase from the 387,000 people injured in 2011, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

With the rise of social media on college campuses in conjunction with students’ decreasing attention spans, texting while driving, even for those individuals who believe they are skilled in the act, is extremely dangerous.

UTSA senior Joseph Cortinas admits that he does text and drive, but only when he is at a red light. “I used to text while driving, even though I knew it was bad, but now I only do it when I’m stopped at a red light.”

Even though Cortinas knows that it is against the law in San Antonio, he believes that red lights are the safest places to text when he is on the road. “I feel like I can’t wait until I get home to text, so whenever I’m at a red light, I sneak and use my phone,” he explained.

The CDC explains that there are three main types of distractions while operating a vehicle: visual, which involves taking your eyes off the road; manual, taking your hands off the wheel; and cognitive, your mental state or lack thereof while driving.

Texting while driving incorporates all three types of distractions. It is already risky to briefly take your eyes off of the road, but to do so while also taking your hands off the wheel to type and taking your mind off of driving to compose your message can lead to a disastrous incident.

Many states and municipalities are beginning to take action to prevent texting while driving. On January 1 of this year, San Antonio’s ordinance went into effect that prohibits drivers from hands-on cellphone use while behind the wheel. Originally, San Antonio police officers observed a grace period where they only gave violators of the new law a written warning. However, on February 1, when the grace period ended, police officers began writing tickets that carried fines up to $200. According to the San Antonio Police Department (SAPD), between the end of the grace period on February 1 and March 16, officers had issued about 1,609 tickets to violators of the new law.

“There’s still a segment of the population that’s not getting the hint,” said Sgt. Javier Salazar, a spokesman for SAPD. “They’re still not following the law, and that’s fine. Our officers are out enforcing it.”

The new ordinance is also being enforced on and around campus by UTSAPD. Citations issued by UTSA Police Officers may be a campus citation or a municipal citation. Municipal citations are subject up to a $200 fine, while campus citations are subject up to $45.

Rebecca Doll, a senior at UTSA, no longer uses her phone while driving since one of her friends was involved in a horrible wreck because of his texting while driving. “My friend Enzo got into a very bad accident and injured his back because he was texting behind the wheel,” stated Doll. “I don’t want to lose my life over a silly text.”

Popular companies are changing the conversation by promoting “Don’t Talk & Text” ads. AT&T’s “#ItCanWait” campaign encourages people to take the pledge to keep their eyes on the road, not on their phones. AT&T’s app DriveMode silences message alerts and auto-replies when driving to let friends and family know you can’t respond.

There are also vehicles that have technology to prevent texting and driving. For example, Ford’s SYNC operating system sends texts dictated by the driver and reads incoming texts aloud. BMW has also unveiled plans for gesture controls that will allow drivers to point at the vehicle’s navigation screen to take a call.

Though some people see built-in vehicle technology as a distraction, if statistics show them to be safe, these features could become standard in a few years, leading to a decrease in accidents due to texting and driving. Fewer accidents, more UTSA students out of harms way.

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