Put cell phone away during holiday travel

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Avoid distractions when behind the wheel makes safer holidays for all

By Ken Esten Cooke— Charge it, store it away, let your kid play games on it. But get your cell phone out of your hand when you are driving to see family this Christmas season.

With Christmas almost here, millions of drivers around Texas and the nation will take to the roads to visit family and friends.               

As we hit the road, let’s remember to do whatever is possible and avoid distracted driving — for the sake of our own selves, our passengers and all others on the road.

Traffic volume increases during holidays so roads are packed with people, presents and even pet Fido loaded into vehicles of all types. Many times visibility in our vehicles is hampered by stacks of presents and luggage.

The increase in traffic is enough to give every driver pause, and adding distractions such as cell phones for texting and social media can lead to tragedy and heartbreak in a split second. It’s important for drivers to make sure they do not text or use cell phones while on the road. Even as Texas does not currently have a law that limits the use of cell phones while driving, it should be considered a responsibility of every driver that they will keep distractions to a minimum while driving a one- to two-ton vehicle.

The issue of texting the driving has received lots of media coverage.

A website, textingwhiledrivingsafety.com, has some sobering statistics about “Driving While InTexticated.”

• In 2011, at least 23 percent of auto collisions involved cell phones — that’s 1.3 million crashes.

• Five seconds is the minimal amount of time your attention is taken away from the road while texting and driving. If you are traveling at 55 mph, that is the length of a football field without looking at the road.

• Text messaging makes a crash up to 23 times more likely.

• One driving school in Belgium tricked teens into thinking they had to pass a “texting while driving” course to get their license. The video results, which can be found on Youtube, are sobering and frightening. See the video at: http://youtu.be/HbjSWDwJILs

Music stars Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift and Keith Urban recently collaborated on the song “Highway Don’t Care,” which features a texting and driving wreck in the song’s music video. The trio are taking part in a pledge to not text and drive called “It Can Wait.” Their pledge begins with this simple statement: “No text message, email, website or video is worth the risk of endangering my life or the lives of others on the road.”

We agree, so let’s not let our anxiousness and anticipation about texts put lives at risk.

The holidays are happy times of getting together with family and friends, but texting and driving can turn them into tragedy. So let’s all do what we can to prevent distractions as we drive.

Merry Christmas.

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