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a silent salute: The audience "claps" at Joke Night during Deaf Awareness week. Click Arts&Life for a link to story. / Photo by Leah Lopshire

Today's word on journalism

December 15, 2008

As part of my own personal "war on Christmas" (which a Utah state senator has offered legislation to outlaw), the WORD celebrates the season by going on hiatus until January. May all out days be merry and bright, and here’s to a safe, healthy and saner New Year. HoHoHo!

Empty Minds: "Of all the people expressing their mental vacuity, none has a better excuse for an empty head than the newspaperman: If he pauses to restock his brain, he invites onrushing deadlines to trample him flat. Broadcasting the contents of empty minds is what most of us do most of the time, and nobody more relentlessly than I."

--Russell Baker, Pulitzer-winning columnist

Speak up! Comment on the WORD at

http://tedsword.
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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Don't text and drive

By Diane Denning

November 11, 2008 | I was running late to work and in a rush. I jumped into my white Mazda 626, started my car and pulled out of my driveway onto the road. As had become my routine, I pulled out my black Motorola flip phone and decided to send a text.

I opened to the texting screen, then briefly glanced up at the road. I used my left hand to steer my car and my right had to type my text message. I looked down at my cell phone to make sure the message I was typing correctly said, "Hey how is your day," then glanced up at the road.

In the middle of my life-altering text message I looked up, just in time to see a stop sign zooming past on my right.

I plowed through the stop sign, not even attempting to stop. My heart started to race. I quickly looked around to see if anyone had witnessed what I had done. I saw a Ford truck about 35 yards off heading my way. The driver noticed my cell phone in hand and had his hands raised in disgust at what I had just done. His head was shaking in a way that said to me, "Put the cell phone down and drive."

Now I am saying to everyone what I felt that unhappy man in the truck said to me, "PUT THE CELL PHONE DOWN AND DRIVE!!!"

According to an article in US News in February, 20 percent of drivers are sending or receiving a text message while behind the wheel. That number jumps to 66 percent when the driver is between the ages of 18 to 24. There have been some horrific accidents recently in which many people were either injured, or lost their lives due to someone's texting while driving and not paying as much attention to the road as they should.

We all like to believe we devote the same amount of attention to the road when we are texting as we do when we aren't, but that cannot be true. Distracted drivers are the cause of 80 percent of accidents and 65 percent of near accidents, according to an article by ABC News. This article also states that teenagers' No. 1 distraction is texting.

After running that stop sign I immediately began to think of how the situation could have been extremely worse. What if I had hit that truck? What if the truck had hit me? What if there had been a child crossing the road to get to school? What if, what if, what if? We don't ask ourselves that question enough.

Texting while behind the wheel has got to stop. I can bet most of us are guilty of texting while driving, but we have to find a way to stop. There is enough to focus on while driving -- for example, changing lanes correctly, using blinkers, watching for stop signs and being aware of what other drivers are doing. All of these responsibilities make driving a multitasking event. Don't add texting on top of it.

I learned my lesson about texting and driving the hard way, but I was lucky I didn't cause any life altering damage. I didn't hit a car, I didn't take anyone's life, but it scared me enough to stop my bad habit. Three weeks after running that stop sign, I can honestly say I haven't texted while driving.

Learn from my mistake; don't wait until something terrible happens to you. Put down the cell phone and drive. Pay attention to what you are doing.

NW
MS

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