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It really can wait

Buffalo Sabres hockey goaltender Ryan Miller visited the Springville-Griffith Institute High School last Thursday, to implore the high school students to keep both hands on the wheel and save the texting for later.

As part of AT&T’s “It Can Wait” endeavor, Miller led students in taking a pledge not to text and drive.

Although New York state prohibits drinking and driving with legislation that seems like common sense, texting-related automobile accidents prove that distracted driving is an ongoing issue.

A 2009 study done by “Car and Driver Magazine” proved that texting and driving impairs an individual’s driving abilities just as much as, if not more than, driving while intoxicated. Drivers were tested on a closed course, both while texting and while legally drunk, with a .08 percent blood alcohol level.

It took, on average, four times longer for drivers to hit the brake when they were reading an email or texting, than when they were unimpaired. When they were legally drunk, their braking distance increased by 4 feet. When they were sending a text, that distance increased by 70 feet.

According to AAA, “Distraction contributes to 16 percent of all fatal crashes, leading to around 5,000 deaths, every year.”

“The American public correctly views drinking and driving as wrong,” said CNBC Reporter Philip LeBeau. “But, when it comes to texting and driving, we are not as outraged.”

In a smart move, politicians have taken it upon themselves to draw increased attention to the issue of texting and driving. Today, 39 states, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Washington, D.C. have prohibited text messaging for all drivers, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association. Five additional states ban text messaging for new drivers.

Current New York laws specify that drivers must utilize hands-free devices, when talking on cell phones. Text messaging and other uses of handheld electronic devices by drivers are completely banned. Violators face a $150 fine and two points on their licenses.

New York Assemblyman Felix Ortez, who was instrumental in New York’s initial cell phone use ban, recently introduced several pieces of distracted driving legislation. He has asked that all cell phone use while driving be banned, with no hands-free provision. The only exception would be emergency calls.

He also asked that the dialing of mobile telephones by drivers be banned and that police officers be required to note, on accident reports, whether or not a cell phone was in use, at the time of an accident. Additionally, his legislation specifies that drivers who, while utilizing a mobile phone, kill or injure another person, be criminally prosecuted.

SPRINGVILLE — Additional legislation currently being contemplated by New York’s governing bodies include the banning of video displays in the front area of a vehicle (excluding navigation screens) and the extension of texting and cell phone use laws to drivers stopped at stop signs, traffic lights and railroad crossings.

In the meantime, politicians, teachers and role models alike are seeking to remind everyone to keep safety first.

Ryan Miller put his money where his mouth is and joined local high schoolers in promising to not text while driving.

When I heard that the Buffalo Sabres goaltender was going to be taking part in this initiative, I visited AT&T’s It Can Wait website and also signed the no-text-and-drive pledge. While the students got a wake-up call, when they watched AT&T’s “The Last Text” documentary, it should not take a series of unfortunate statistics to scare us into doing the right thing.

Please join the young people of our community in pledging to keep yourselves and the other drivers on the road safe. Take the pledge at www.itcanwait.com.

Watch AT&T’s series of stories about people who have lost loved ones or who were involved in accidents, due to texting while driving, at www.youtube.com/watch?v=DebhWD6ljZs.
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