WhiteCoat

Newest Crime: “DWT”

texting-while-driving-foolSeveral events came together in a weird way confirming to me that this post just needed to be written.

The picture at the right was taken of the driver in a delivery van that swerved over the midline – in the rain – while I was driving down the street behind him. We got to a light and he has his little phone in his hand texting away.

Then, an aunt of mine (by marriage) and three people in her vehicle, including the 17 year old driver, were recently killed in a terrible car accident.  Two others in the vehicle survived with serious injuries. They were traveling late at night and initially police thought that the driver fell asleep at the wheel. After speaking with one of the survivors, they discovered that she was trying to send a text message to a friend while driving down the road at 70 MPH.

I’ve seen my share of serious injuries in the ED resulting from accident victims doing the same thing.

On a news feed that I get, one of the articles this morning was about how the Missouri legislature just passed a bill outlawing those 21 and younger from “Driving While Texting” or “DWT.”

The comment section to the article has many people arguing that there is too much government regulation already. One commenter writes “What’s next? Picking your nose, eating a cheese burger, changing cd’s, maybe even yelling at your kids? And don’t you dare look at the navigation unit that comes from the factory installed on your car!” Some argued that the law needed to be expanded to everyone, not just those less than 21 years old, while others argued that such a law would be unenforceable.

It’s tempting to say that if people who “drive while texting” die or are maimed in a car accident, their injuries are “punishment enough.” Those sentiments don’t take into account the financial toll that their medical care takes upon the families or the government. Nor do those sentiments account for the injuries that distracted drivers cause to other parties when they broadside a minivan because they’re too wrapped up in their text messaging.

For crying out loud, if you’re going to communicate while driving, just call someone already.

Hey BFF … the close up view of a tractor trailer bearing down on your windshield at 70 MPH  isn’t a “LOL” moment … U KNOW?

20 Responses to “Newest Crime: “DWT””

  1. Finn Haddie says:

    Texting while driving any motor vehicle ought to be illegal in every state, for everybody. I don’t understand how anyone can seriously argue that it’s OK to tear along with both hands OFF the wheel and both eyes OFF the road. A week ago here in Boston, some idiot slammed a subway trolley into another after running a yellow AND a red light while texting. Result: 49 people sent to the hospital by ambulance & 3 uninsured trolley cars totalled to the tune of over $9M in a public transit system already about $140M in debt.

    If you think it’s OK to text while driving, please just shoot yourself in the head and spare the rest of us, please.

  2. tyro says:

    Call me old but I still can’t believe people do this. Seriously, doesn’t that strike anyone as dangerous when they do it? Even drunk people hold on to the steering wheel.

  3. I’m from Missouri the state that says it is okey dokey to carry a concealed handgun so was glad to see they did something decent although I don’t get the 21 y/o rule…oh wait a minute, we can pass a law that sounds kinda of good and won’t really piss off the real voters because we targeted a voting base that doesn’t have much impact.
    Sorry about your family member.

  4. Ash says:

    I live in Newfoundland, Canada and ANY use of a cell phone while driving without a hands-free device is illegal.

    I completely agree with the law. I am in university and my generation is filled with texting fiends, so I have been in a car where the driver was texting and it scared the ever-loving bejezeus out of me!

  5. Christine says:

    It astonishes me that people text while driving, but I’ve seen it. I’ll talk on the phone or eat a snack because those don’t require me to look away, but I’m not comfortable dialing a phone number or changing my iPod even one-handed because it requires me to take my eyes off the road. I’m not comfortable doing that for obvious reasons.

    More than anything, I think it’s pathetic that we should have to make laws like these that address issues which OUGHT to be common sense. Not that the laws are really enforcable, but it’s a sad statement in general. …and the 21 yo age limit? Are you saying older adults can text safely while driving? Seriously?

    Maybe I’ll just stay off the roads. :(

  6. Nurse K says:

    I think it would be more dangerous for people > 40 to text while driving. Kids nowadays can text really w/o looking. You ever see your mom try to text? Yeah, huge cluster.

  7. C. says:

    There is a law in NY prohibiting hand held cell phones and texting while driving. However, there is no law prohibiting dialing a phone number while driving, so it’s very difficult to enforce. Overall, isnt it just dumb? Admittedly, I will text in the car but only if stopped at a light and even that makes me nervous. If it’s THAT important, pull over.

    So sorry for your loss.

  8. brighid says:

    One day I’m going to run for president as an independent on a platform to legalize drugs (thus bringing that whole market into the realm of things that can be regulated and taxed, and at the same time emptying the prisons of people who aren’t violent, simply unlucky at commerce), change the national anthem to something that most people can sing decently (I favor “America the Beautiful,” but I’m willing to negotiate) and mandate that all cars must be equipped with a cell-phone squelcher wired to the car’s electrical system so that cell phones can’t be dialed or used in any way — including hands-free — as long as the ignition is turned on. People who think they can drive while conducting long conversations, either oral or text, are fooling themselves. They can’t maintain their lane, they can’t maintain their speed, and worst of all, they can’t maintain situational awareness.

    I realize this platform won’t be universally popular, but I figure each issue individually will pick up enough enthusiastic supporters so that, when added together, they’ll give me a mandate.

    • WhiteCoat says:

      I always thought that incorporating the GPS system into the wiring of the phone would be able to accomplish the same thing. Phone can’t be dialed and messages don’t pop up when the car is in motion. If it’s standing still but the ignition is on, there’s no potential for harm. Once the car is in motion, the phone goes dead.

    • marie says:

      So, it’s impossible for me to have an in-depth conversation and drive?

      I do it all the time. With the passengers in my car. Go ahead and ban normal talking while driving. That makes as much sense as most other laws out there.

      Perhaps I should no longer listen to music. That’s pretty distracting too.

      Also, if one cannot use a cell phone while driving, I guess that would mean passengers too. What about passengers in a taxi, in a bus, or on an airplane? There are plenty of legitimate reasons to use a cell phone in a moving vehicle.

      I can responsibly use a phone in my car. It’s not my fault some other idiot cannot.

      • WhiteCoat says:

        I’m sure that every person who has ever crashed while they were distracted by a cell phone thought the exact same thing right before impact.
        If a law like this kept some other idiot’s attention on the road instead of on their cell phone, and in doing so, kept them from broadsiding your family’s vehicle, would it still be a dumb law?
        I don’t know the right answer. All I know is that there are an awful lot of accidents due to cell phone use.
        What’s the solution?

  9. toni says:

    Driving while texting is just plain STUPID. People who don’t know this are IDIOTS~!
    If your reading this and your one of those stupid people slap yourself.

  10. SeaSpray says:

    WhiteCoat and family – I am so sorry for your loss…so senseless.

    Accidents are senseless and we all wish we could go back and do things differently when they happen. How many times in the ED, have we heard patients say “I feel so stupid!” in reference to all kinds of accidents?

    I think the law should apply to all ages, anyone who texts while driving.

    I also think there should be more public awareness and commercials might be one way to reach the masses. Also billboards, magazines and radio spots.

    People who have caused or lived through these accidents could help raise awareness by doing public speaking, particularly in schools.

    There needs to be a media campaign.

    I don’t like texting. I can not imagine what is so important that you can’t wait until you stop somewhere.

    Why is it more important to people to read or send a message than it is that they might kill or mame themselves and/or others? So stupid and so selfish!

    Talking on phone is better although not safe either. I have done that but rarely.

    I don’t know how for generations we ever got by in our day without talking on a cell phone or texting when driving. ??

    I think people have become SLAVES to their electronic equipment.

    Btw.. I am not a saint in the car. I shouldn’t be throwing stones either.

    I have been known to fard while driving. It’s true! Farding, most commonly with lipstick while driving has been the willful bad behavior I have succumbed to.

    Fard = applying makeup.

    I think a lot of women are guilty of farding to some extent in the car and anytime you take your eyes off the road… there is increased risk. I used to try to read maps when visiting clients in my last job.

    People shave and basically multitask while driving. I guess we all think it will not be us because we think we are all in control,but the other side of this is that when we engage in distracting behavior while driving we also don’t drive defensively.

  11. The age of a participating “textor” while driving means nothing to me as does the speed of the performed act or the ability to multi-task. Too much depth and quality of attention is diverted away from the primary task and that’s a fact, Jack.

    In general, I find the texting and twittering phenomenon to be inane. More gladiator mentality for sheeple masses. If there’s something to be communicated, why not call, indeed. Moron is too gentle a term.

    How tragic for your family. So much pain.
    There is necessary suffering and unnecessary suffering. I don’t claim to know where to draw every line or everyone’s line but I have my opinions like the rest of planet biped.

    I appreciate your sharing these tales.

  12. david says:

    There was a legend of Emergency Medicine, Dr Mike Sanchez, who was killed while jogging by a man driving a truck. Allegedly, the man driving was texting. Dr. Sanchez was my hero. We should pass a national law and name it after him.

  13. Canuck Med Student says:

    It’s illegal to do anything with a phone (including phone calls) without a hands-free device in Ontario, Canada too. And I disagree that it isn’t enforceable… think of all the times you’ve been cut off by people you can blatantly see are on their phones… now imagine you’re a cop, and you’re actually LOOKING for people committing such stupidity.

    And y’know which group lobbied hard to get the law passed? The Ontario Medical Association. Wonder why.

  14. TDB says:

    They passed a law in my state in January of this year making texting while driving illegal and you will get ticketed for it if caught.

  15. defendUSA says:

    I punish my kids by taking the phone away, if they are caught doing that…how do I know? I check the time they leave and I know how long it takes to get there. NO TEXTING!!! I have caught My oldest twice. I just check the bill online.
    Since I have owned a cell, I have some rules. Never talk while driving unless I have an earpiece.( i have that voice recognition dial, if needed) Never talk on the phone in a store or checkout line. I go outside. If someone calls and I have no earpiece, I pull off the road. Period.

  16. Max Kennerly says:

    It’s like the repeal of the motorcycle helmet laws. “Get the government off my back,” just so you can hop in the government’s lap to fund your seven-figure brain injury care.

  17. Mirjam says:

    Hmmm, yeah, you might know how to do it, multitasking while driving, eating, texting, calling, whatever you so skillfully do.
    That doesn’t mean the idiot running the stop sign does and critically injures or kills you on his way through the intersection.

    Honestly, it is better for everyone to have a law to prohibit ‘DWT’.

    As of January 2010 it is against the law in BC, Canada as well and I’m glad. It’s one of those things that is so senseless when you loose a loved one because of someone using their cellphone while they should be doing what you’re supposed to do in a vehicle; drive.

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