Zosimo T. Literatus, R.M.T.


RENOWED physicist Albert Einstein once said: “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.”

The same is true with text messaging at the wheel. You consider the person you are “texting” to as not worth stopping the car you are driving. Neither do you consider other drivers’ safety or that they might figure in a deadly accident with your car.

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And recent study on text messaging among young drivers simply showed how dangerous that indifference can be.

Three researchers from Monash University Accident Research Centre in Melbourne, Australia, performed a driving simulation test on novice drivers while these drivers use a cell phone to retrieve a text messae and send it. The team of SG Hosking, KL Young and MA Regan reported in the Aug. 29 issue of Hum Factors that the amount of time that drivers spent not looking at the road when text messaging quadrupled beyond those who were not text messaging.

In addition to that, drivers increased their lane swerving 50 percent. And missing lane changes increased 140 percent. The drivers’ inability to follow distances to lead vehicles also increased 150 percent.

It may be easy to brush off these figures as “exclusively” for novice drivers. But the way we see “experienced” drivers in our highways make us appreciate the idea that inside every experienced driver is a novice motorist waiting for an accident to happen.

Apparently, that is true in the case of a 55-year-old motorist who read a disturbing text message while driving.

He lost control of his vehicle and hit three pedestrians in Pasig City, as reported in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Dec. 21, 2009.

Today, there are roughly 48 countries outside the United States and the Philippines that ban the use of cell phones while driving.

As far back as July 2007, Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. (third district, Pampanga) submitted House Bill (HB) 1625, an act regulating the use of hand-held cell phones by motorists.

However, it was not until last year when the Transportation Commission in the House of Representatives acted on it, as another proposal, HB 4917 or the Cell Phone Safety Act, came up on August 2008 from Rep. Irwin Tieng (Buhay party-list group).

Edgar Snyder & Associates, a law firm representing injured people, reported in its website that in 2008 alone, nearly 6,000 Americans died from distracted drivers using handheld cell phone while driving. And imagine how much it can do to the people of the “text capital of the world,” according to a 2005 study.

The 1925 Nobel Prize in Literature Awardee George Bernard Shaw reminds: “Indifference is the essence of inhumanity.”