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Texting while driving: When will we learn our lesson?

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A sobering thought: The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says you’re six times more likely to have an accident texting behind the wheel than driving under the influence.
Illustration: Lex Cannon

According to a recent report by the National Safety Council, cell phone use while driving was responsible for 26 percent of crashes nationwide last year. Twenty-six percent. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration says you’re six times more likely to have an accident texting behind the wheel than driving under the influence. How’s that for a sobering thought?

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In Nevada, a law took effect in 2012 instituting fines of $50-$250 for cell phone use while driving, but this year citations by Nevada Highway Patrol are already up 67 percent. If fines aren’t a deterrent, what is?

Grassroots campaigns are springing up all over the country to try to curb texting while driving, now illegal in 41 states. In San Francisco, graphic designer Brian Singer has launched a public shaming campaign that posts giant pictures of texting drivers on billboards around town—all using his own money.

In Colorado, Lynn Edgin started a company in 2010 called Texting Thumb Bands, producing small silicon bands that stretch around your thumbs and have sayings like “W8 2 TXT,” “TXTING KILLS” and “JST DRV.” His company has sold 2.5 million thumb bands worldwide, and he’s supplied materials—T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons—to more than 1,000 schools. He came up with the idea while teaching his granddaughter to drive, “and she was constantly texting the whole time.” Edgin says changing behavior will come down to two things: education and example. “Young drivers say to me, ‘My mom does it. My dad does it.’ There are new drivers every day. Others have to set the example.”

Last year, AT&T launched “It Can Wait,” an anti-texting campaign offering apps to let your friends know when you’re driving along with a virtual reality simulator to demonstrate the dangers of texting and driving. At itcanwait.com, drivers can sign an online petition pledging not to text and drive.

April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so law enforcement is stepping up its efforts. NHTSA spokesman Jose Ucles says the administration will hold a “high-visibility enforcement campaign” from April 10-15 to crack down on violators, part of its “U. Drive. U. Text. U. Pay” initiative.

In Nevada, a joint effort in February between Henderson, NHP and Boulder City produced 188 citations for cell phone use during an 18-day period. It seems the message about cell phones and driving isn’t coming through clearly enough. Perhaps if they just texted us a reminder ...

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Ken Miller is Las Vegas Weekly's associate editor, having previously served as assistant features editor at the Las Vegas Sun ...

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