By: Denver Nicks | Category: Special Interest | Issue: October 2010
Judge Linda Morrissey is tackling a big problem in our community – texting while driving, especially among teenagers.
Judge Morrissey is tackling a significant problem in our community – texting while driving. In a recent educational forum for teens and their parents, she said, “I care about our kids and want to protect them from being involved in a tragic accident due to texting. Many people don’t realize that texting and driving is comparable to drunk driving, in terms of the driver’s safety to himself and others on the road. The number one killer of our teens is car crashes.”
Just imagine. You’re in your car, driving down the freeway. You’re going 65 miles per hour, traveling the distance of a football field every three seconds. Who among us hasn’t, at a moment like this, heard that familiar ping? Your cell phone, sitting next to you in the console, is telling you that you just got a text message. And who among us hasn’t felt that familiar temptation to take just a moment, a fleeting few seconds with our eyes away from the road, to respond?
Some who are no longer among us did.
This year, thousands of people will die and be maimed for life from car crashes caused by drivers texting while on the road. It’s an unforeseen public health crisis that has ballooned in recent years, as the technology and the popularity of text messaging have grown. Fortunately, some Americans are beginning to address it.
Tulsa County Judge Linda Morrissey recently met with a group of adults and teens in Sand Springs at the Case Community Center to help explain a new Oklahoma law that prohibits teens with a permit or intermediate driver’s license from using a cell phone while driving. Under the new rules, if a teen uses a cell phone while operating a motor vehicle, they can be pulled over and ticketed, resulting in substantial fines and legal costs. Perhaps worse, for teens enjoying their newfound freedom on the road, they can have their license suspended or cancelled.
Judge Morrissey took a special interest in the issue because her daughter is a member of a group called GenTxt, which seeks to raise awareness among young people of the dangers of texting while driving. “Almost half of all teens admit to texting while driving,” Judge Morrissey noted. “We must educate them about the danger so they will be safe.” Further, Judge Morrissey warned, “Teens need to be aware that if they are cited for texting while driving, it will have a negative impact on their driving record. It can also expose them and possibly even their parents to incurring other associated costs like increased insurance and possible criminal and/or civil liability.”
As it turns out, despite the temptation to respond to that text message waiting in the console, the dangers of texting while driving are entirely avoidable. Several safety measures are recommended. For starters, “put the cell phone in the glove compartment or out of reach,” Judge Morrissey suggested. Choosing a designated “texter” in the passenger seat is an alternative that teens might accept. Other strategies include leaving the phone in the trunk to help stave off the temptation, turning the phone off, or installing increasingly widespread signal blocking technology that prevents incoming and outgoing calls, except when calling an emergency number.
Interestingly, the major influence on teens and whether they will text and drive is their parents’ conduct. “Parents, please set the right example for your children and do not text while driving,” Judge Morrissey urged.
Fortunately, Judge Morrissey and a group of responsible teenagers are stepping up to address this growing threat to the safety of our children and, indeed, to anyone driving down the road. Fatalities and injuries caused by texting while driving are a reality. With the help of this new law, and community leaders like Judge Morrissey and the GenTxt teens, more among us will takes steps to resist the temptation to text and drive, and more Oklahomans will be safe on the roads.