Friday, October 9, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes

An often misquoted and misunderstood biblical phrase, “out of the mouths of babes,” is loosely used to convey the sense that children, perhaps unfettered by world-weariness, often express wisdom that is beyond (or at least forgotten by) their elders. Sadly, in my experience, that is not often enough the case.

I read a nice article in today’s Plymouth Observer entitled “Sending a Message: Kids divided on texting while driving ban.” You can read the entire article here:

The article is quite an eye opener. Oh, it’s not shocking that kids would text while driving. Maddeningly, I see this happening almost daily. The people who can least afford to be distracted on the road, inexperienced drivers, yack on their cell phones incessantly and text with an alarming frequency. I’m actually surprised these days when I pass a teen driver that is not on his or her phone. And I’m not exaggerating.

What did shock me in the article is that some of them, knowing the danger they are putting themselves and others in by distracted driving, think a ban on driving-while-texting is a bad idea or it goes too far. Here are some of the more disheartening quotes from some local high schoolers:

Kristyn Sturtz, a 16-year-old Plymouth High School junior, said she has stopped text messaging while driving, but she opposes a federal ban because “people are going to do it anyway” and she believes the law would be ineffective.

Still, Sturtz said, “I know people who have gotten in crashes (while texting). No one has gotten hurt, but cars have been totaled.”

Ah, the old “people are going to do it anyway” reason for not passing laws. I suppose we should take the drunk driving statutes off the books because people continue to drink and drive.

This young lady admittedly texts while driving but won’t stop unless the feds step in and ban the practice:

Kara Bongiovanni, a 17-year-old Canton High School senior, said she doesn’t typically initiate texting while driving, but she reads and responds when others text her. “I try to make it to a red light before I respond, but I do read it while I’m driving, though,” she said.

Still, Bongiovanni said she would stop texting while driving altogether if state or federal lawmakers impose a ban — an idea she supports.

Apparently it seems advisable to her only to read texts while driving but not actually respond until she is at a red light. This is at least a step in the right direction.

This boy perhaps expresses the most startling sentiment of all: he regularly texts and drives but the law should find a “middle ground” to regulate his behavior. An all out ban, he seems to suggest, would disconnect his poor soul during his commute:

Alex Gravlin, a 16-year-old Salem High School junior, said an outright ban goes too far. He suggested efforts to find “a middle ground” in the controversy, although he isn’t sure what it would be.

Gravlin said he often prefers quick text messaging over formal phone conversations, and he said it’s a practice he engages in “from the time school gets out until I go to bed.” He conceded he texts while driving “every now and then,” but he usually tries to do it when he is stopped at a red light.

I hate to sound like a finger-wagger, but this is a safety issue. Drivers that feel this way could kill themselves or others.

There’s another issue at work her, too. People just can’t seem to unplug even for a few minutes, teens in particular. This thinking is lost on me. Why is responding immediately to some inane teen jibber-jabber more important than paying attention to the road for a few minutes?

Now this kid gets it. She seems to have a head on her shoulders:

Amy Paladino, a 17-year-old Canton High School senior, said she has completely stopped sending or reading texts while she is driving, and she supports a ban.“I never text while I’m driving. I just let them pile up until I’m done driving,” she said, adding that she became fearful after seeing stories about people who have died while texting and driving.

“I don’t want that to be me,” Paladino said.

See how simple that is? If only more of her peers would listen to her.

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