Text u L8er: MPs crack down on cell phone users
October 28, 2009
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- If you think you need to answer your cell phone or reply to that text while you are driving on Fort Jackson, you better think again.
Fort Jackson police officers are increasing their vigilance for dangerous driver behavior and using cell phones while behind the wheel is a major safety risk. Violators can be cited by traffic officers.
"Obviously, if (drivers are) talking on their phones or texting, they're not paying attention to what they're doing," said Sgt. Kory Netzer, a Fort Jackson military policeman and traffic accident investigator. "Texting can be really dangerous because that's one less hand on the steering wheel."
People who text while driving are almost 24 times more likely to get into an accident, according to researchers from the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Also according VTTI: Teen drivers are four times more likely than adults to get into car crashes or near-crash events directly related to talking on a cell phone or texting; a car driver dialing a cell phone is 2.8 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-distracted driver; a driver reaching for a cell phone or any other electronic device is 1.4 times more likely to experience a car crash.
Netzer said that is why drivers should never use their cell phones, whether for talking or texting, while their car is in motion.
"If it's absolutely necessary, they need to pull off the road to a safe spot and park," Netzer said.
According to estimates from the National Highway Safety Administration, 16 percent of all fatal crashes in 2008 could be connected to distracted drivers.
The NHSA also estimates that 5,870 drivers were killed last year and another 515,000 people injured in accidents involving distracted drivers.
President Obama earlier this month issued an executive order banning federal employees from text messaging while driving a government vehicle or driving a privately owned vehicle while on government business.
The use of a cell phone while driving is prohibited in 17 states, though not by South Carolina. Eighteen states have banned texting while driving.
Fort Jackson's policy on the use of cell phones while driving is aligned with that of the executive order from the president.
Sean O'Brian, director of the Fort Jackson Safety Office, said anything that distracts a driver from paying attention to the road can be dangerous.
"We discourage all forms of distracted driving, whether it's talking on a phone, texting or eating a cheeseburger," O'Brian said. "Wait or pull over. When you're driving, you should be driving."