While texting and driving, I ran off the freeway

A veteran texter faces facts in a texting and driving simulator.

Courtesy of James Moulin/University of Utah
A driving simulator tests distracted driving at the University of Utah Applied Cognition Laboratory.

If there was one thing I knew, it was that I could text and drive just fine. The new laws were for other people. That was before I "ran off the freeway" five times and hit another car – at 65 m.p.h.

Fortunately for me and other drivers, my DWT (driving while texting) violations occurred in a simulator, safely stationary at the University of Utah's Applied Cognition Laboratory.

I felt confident I'd be able to pull it off. As a charter member of Generation Y, I've been texting for years and knew that I had plenty of real-life practice. But in the simulator, I put the car into drive and found myself zipping down a freeway. Going 65 m.p.h. in traffic and through curves made me realize I wasn't as good as I thought. Thus the off-roading and final collision. My diminished texting ability while driving was evident in the message I sent my editor: "hey how'd ut goig I am in the simulator it is garz!"

I know it's bad, yet I've still found myself texting while driving, walking, and in class. Driving, I rationalize: "I'm on a straight stretch of road with plenty of space, there isn't any danger, and besides, this text message is important."

All this despite the memory of a popular fellow student who was killed two years ago after her car was hit by a texting driver. Her life was taken in an instant because someone else also had "important" texting to do. It's a sobering thought, especially when I remember how shocked I was by her death, promising myself and others that my driving-while-texting days were over.

Following my simulated near-death experience, I've been especially alert while driving. Riding with a friend who is texting, I notice her attentiveness to the road decreasing while working an iPod, a phone, etc. I tense as we approach other cars, wondering if we're about to collide, or rolling my eyes when my friend fails to accelerate at normal speed, causing irritated drivers behind us to dangerously hug our back bumper. But it's not just my friends.

I lose count daily of how many people I see chatting away on their cellphones, looking down to send a quick text, or holding iPods up to change songs.

At least my wrecks were virtual.

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