I was traveling on a divided six-lane surface street during the day. I was traveling in the middle lane. Just before I reached the light, an SUV came to a stop in the left lane. I watched my rear-view mirror as I usually do, but the person behind me was driving safely and came to a stop at least four feet behind me. Having nothing else to do, I looked over at the SUV, only to see a 1990s GM sedan rear-end the SUV at about 5 mph. The SUV had the typical, useless plastic bumpers, so there was significant body damage. As the driver and passenger exited their SUV with surprised, if not pissed-off looks on their faces, I looked at the young driver of the GM sedan, only to see him finally look up from his texting.
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On another day, I was traveling on a divided four-lane surface street, with the divider consisting of a raised concrete platform containing trees and bushes. I saw a newish Cadillac approaching behind me. I could not see his face, so I concluded that he was texting. Luckily there was no vehicle ahead of me and there was a wide shoulder to my right, so I could speed up or move to the shoulder if he got too close. I was relieved when he abruptly changed lanes to the left, but I still took my foot off the accelerator pedal to allow him to pass more quickly. There was a vehicle in the left lane, ahead of the Cadillac. We were all approaching a traffic light, which was green, with the intersection allowing left turns via a dedicated turn lane. As the Cadillac passed me, I saw that the driver was in his early 20s -- and still texting. He was closing the distance with the other vehicle far too quickly, but suddenly he swerved into the left-turn lane. I assumed he was going to turn left at the traffic light, but at the very last second, he swerved right to enter the left through-lane, missing the divider by no more than a foot and the other vehicle by not much more, forcing that driver to slam on his brakes. When I caught up to the Cadillac at the next traffic light, he was still texting, with a goofy look on his face.
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We've known for years that talking on a cellphone while driving, hands-free or handheld, is comparable to that of someone legally intoxicated, with studies of real-life driving in the U.S., Canada, and Australia all coming to the same conclusion. Texting is even worse, with texting and driving now killing more teens annually than DUI. It's really going to get ugly now that Millennials have overtaken Baby Boomers as America's largest generation.
There is an easy, albeit politically difficult solution for texting while driving. We could force all smart phone companies to add a verification of movement, i.e. phones monitor GPS location and lock-out texting when it is changing. This would also prevent texting while walking, possibly saving a few e-children from walking off piers, though it would be easy to allow for speeds of less than 3 mph, a typical walking speed. For mass transit vehicles and self-driving vehicles, when they become generally available, we could include a functionality to allow texting while riding in them, implemented perhaps via a weak signal transmitted inside the vehicle which smart phones were enabled to detect.
There is no right to text.