I'm not sure why it came as a surprise to anyone but the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute has concluded that texting while driving is a hazard. That's right, a study released last week said that drivers are 23 times more likely to have a crash if they are sending or receiving text messages. The study said, according to the Associated Press, that drivers being observed spent nearly five seconds looking at their texting devices, which was enough time at 55 mph to cover more than the length of a football field.
The study used cameras to monitor car and truck drivers over the course of six million miles of travel to come up with this earth shattering conclusion. I can't believe that this is even a debatable issue. What next; surveying the effects of putting a dark blue plastic bucket over drivers' heads as they head down the highway? How about the impact of having the driver actually lie down on the front seat and depress the accelerator pedal with their left hand and steer with the other?
Unlike talking on a cell phone where you can actually use a main sense (sight) while driving, the writing of a text message demands that you look away from the road and everything around it. If you are like me, it also takes the use of both thumbs and that means that both of your hands, those things that are supposed to be controlling the steering portion of the travel, are compromised.
Sending a text while driving is more than distracted driving, it's fully not paying attention driving and is one of the dumbest things you could do. I don't even think it's smart to be texting while walking down the sidewalk (I'll let you know how texting from a wheelchair goes at some later date although I don't think it will go well). It's like those people who read books while walking. Are you serious? Couldn't all of this wait until the walking or the driving comes to a stop? Must we be this spontaneous? Is something sent via text that important? I don't know about you but most of the texts I send and receive are not so important that they are worth putting my life at risk for.
The funny thing is that local jurisdictions, states and even the federal government are considering whether or not to ban texting while driving. I'm sorry but this seems like an absolute no-brainer. Texting while driving is just not smart and unless we want to let Darwinian theory thin the herd it should be obvious that there is no place for it when one is behind the wheel of a four thousand pound vehicle.
It's not like they don't have enough things to do over at Metro but they are interested in your opinion about pedestrian and bicycle access to rail stations. Metro says it's looking for your feedback on ways to improve walking and bicycling conditions around Metrorail stations, and to encourage more people to walk and bike as part of their trips. The survey asks things like how often you take the train, the purpose of your trips and the distance of the station from your residence and your workplace. It also asked the same questions about the trip to home.
Where the survey will get into trouble in terms of the amount of time it will take to evaluate it is there are some questions without multiple-choice answers in favor of essay-type answers. It will be interesting to see how this survey is used and, frankly, what the system can do short of spending bus loads of money on additional access lanes, parking stands and whatever else people can think of. I would encourage everyone to spend a few minutes and answer the questions. Hey, it can't hurt and you have nothing to lose.
Steve Eldridge is a long-time reporter, observer and commentator on the Washington region's transportation issues. You can contact him directly by writing to: Steve@SprawlandCrawl.com. Unless otherwise requested, letters or portions of letters can be used within future columns. Letter writers will be identified by their first name and city/neighborhood.