It can happen to you, texting can wait while you’re behind the wheel

Unfortunately, we are forced to agree with Wilton Police Chief Brent Hautanen who had a bit of a pessimistic take when commenting for our story last week on texting and driving:

The context of the story was the Amherst Fire Department’s posting on its website of a request for people to refrain from texting while they’re behind the wheel. It is part of a world-wide effort to raise awareness about the dangers of phone use by drivers.

Asked to comment, Chief Hautanent told our Kathy Cleveland that he was not optimistic that a “no texting” message will be universally heard because so many drivers are convinced, “It can’t happen to me.”

Sadly, we found out with the recent death of former Amherst Fire Chief John Bachman that it can, indeed, happen to anyone at any time. Police have said that the young man said to have struck Bachman was checking his email on his cellphone when the accident occurred.

Chief Hautanen and other officials in the region hope that the mantra of “It can’t happen to me” will be replaced by the one of the pledge:

“No matter the message, it can wait!”

Well, of course it can and generally, it would only have to wait a couple of minutes. How difficult is it to find a place to pull off the road so a message can be read or sent? Not all that difficult. Even if one is on a highway, an exit will be coming up relatively quickly.

Sadly, we share Chief Hautanen’s somewhat grim prediction. Certainly when tragedy strikes, there is a heightened awareness of various dangers, but as he indicated, safety messages don’t stay with people for very long, unless another tragedy occurs, and that’s certainly not a good way to get the message out.

Perhaps its time for someone to launch MATAD (Mothers Against Texting And Driving), using the same sort of strategies that the MADD folks used. Better still, perhaps someone in one of our schools could start SATAD (Students Against Texting And Driving) because, it seems to us, there are just far too many young people sending messages while behind the wheel.