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Straight Talk: Texting while driving unsafe

By: Lauren Forcella
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Dear Straight Talk: My son is 17. Starting July 1, he will be banned from using a cell phone while driving until he is 18. Today he informed me that he won’t talk on his cell after the law goes into effect. He will TEXT! He says all his under-18 friends plan to do more texting because they can do it on their knee out of sight of the cops. He says he’s just telling me the truth whereas his friends will lie about it. He works, pays certain bills, gets good grades, plays sports. I can’t follow him around and be his private policeman. But texting is so much more dangerous than talking that I’m flipping out! What should I do? If I threaten consequences, I’m afraid he will just lie about it. Please help. — Jason’s mom From Mariah, 16: Tell your son that a senior in my high school just died while texting. Her mom texted her and when she texted back she ran off the road and was killed. Another senior ran a stop sign while texting and killed an elderly man. From Geoff, 22: Get him a Bluetooth. These wireless, hands-free, earpieces will be hard for police to see. It’s MUCH safer than texting. From Katie, 15: I start driving in December. I probably will text at red lights and possibly use a voice-activated phone. A voice-activated, hands-free device should be allowed for everyone, no matter the age. From Laura, 21: It is no more dangerous to hold a cell phone to your ear than to eat while you drive. This law will only cause people, especially teens, to find sneakier (and more hazardous) ways to use their phones. From Nicole, 18: I don’t plan to abide by the new law. Convince your son to talk instead of text, it’s much safer. From Ashley, 20: People do stupid things while on their cell phones, so I think it’s a good law. I almost never text while driving and I have a Bluetooth — but getting it set up while driving can be dangerous, too. From Emily, 15: Being a responsible driver means following the law which I will do. Tell your son how you feel, but don’t force anything or he will just lie to you. Don’t get mad at him for telling the truth or he won’t be honest again.  From Farren, 20: When I first started driving, I looked down to push in a CD and drove into oncoming traffic. Since then, I have respect for distractions. I don’t text unless I’m stopped. When I’m moving, I use Bluetooth and speed dial. If you must text, a free, super-easy voice-activated service called Jott converts voice into text. The Web site is jott.com. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a mistake to wake someone up. Dear Jason’s mom: Yes, and it is these distracted-driver mistakes that the new California law is trying to prevent. Starting July 1, the law bans all but 911-emergency use of cell phones while driving for those under 18. Those over 18 must use a hands-free system and dialing/texting is allowed but discouraged. Your son’s honesty around texting is worth gold. I asked around and many teens have the same misguided plan. I advise parents to have an honest conversation with their under-18 drivers. Is your kid the type that will put his phone away while driving? Or is he the “invincible rebel” who will use the phone in an even more dangerous manner? The spirit of the law is to save lives. It’s a slippery slope to tell your kid to abide by the law while handing him or her a Bluetooth (or less expensive corded earpiece), but texting while driving is so flat-out dangerous that if my kid was like yours, I would do just that. Details of the new law can be found at: www.chp.ca.gov/pdf/media/cell—phone—faq.pdf. Lauren Forcella’s column runs in the Journal each Sunday. Write to Straight Talk at StraightTalkForTeens.com or PO Box 963, Fair Oaks CA 95628.