Recently, I heard a tragic report of the death of a young U.S. Marine. This young man had his whole life in front of him. He left behind a large group of family and friends. As a mother of two, these stories really get to me.
But what really got me was that this young man didn’t die in Iraq or Afghanistan while fighting on the front lines. His death happened right here in this country, while he was driving home and sending text messages on his phone. As he was in the middle of typing a message to his mother, his car veered off the road, hit a tree and he was killed on impact.
His story, as told by his mother, appears on a new commercial for the organization, It Can Wait. Sponsored by AT&T, the purpose of this campaign is to ask people to “take the pledge” never to text while driving. I have taken it, and you should do so now as well, and urge your family and friends to take it too.
For the Latino community, it is important to spread the message of the dangers of driving while distracted as we are among the nation’s leaders in mobile phone use. According to a recent independent survey, more than two in five Latino cell phone users (42%) do most of their online browsing on their phone, almost double the rate for whites (24%).
This shouldn’t be surprising. America’s Hispanic community is younger than the general U.S. population and younger age groups are leaders in using mobile phones for texting, email, and services other than just voice.
What is surprising though is that Hispanics engage in this dangerous behavior of texting while driving in higher numbers than other ethnic groups. Whereas 97% of all teens say that texting while driving is dangerous (with three out of four saying it is very dangerous), 78% of Hispanic teens say that texting while driving is common among their friends. And over half (54%) admit to texting while driving themselves, compared to only 41% of Caucasians and 42% of African-Americans.
This risky behavior leads to catastrophic consequences: injuries and deaths from traffic accidents. Crashes that occur when the driver is texting while driving are a problem that has grown significantly in recent years. Federal surveys concluded more than 100,000 times each year, people are injured or die in a car crash due to the driver texting.
By itself, this is a chilling statistic. But it’s even worse when you think of the awful human toll as lives are cut short or people are left with lifelong disabilities.
No text message is worth that price. So it’s good to see people are standing up and taking action. It Can Wait is gearing up for a national day of pledge-taking on Wednesday, September 19th, where there will be a large push to ask everyone to take a lifelong pledge never to text and drive again.
But there’s no reason for safety to wait even just one more day. I ask everyone reading this to immediately stop texting while driving. The roads will be safer for everyone – drivers, passengers, our sons and daughters, and especially innocent bystanders.
A generation ago, in response to senseless deaths from drunk driving, people began to take pledges never to drink and drive. The public education about drinking and driving has saved countless lives. Texting and driving is an even more lethal combination. But the same thing can happen today with driving and texting. Let’s do what we can to make every day a little safer for us all.