The minute that could save a life

Well, let’s try the good news first:

A survey of Milford High School stu­dents found that "only" 5.8 percent of those responding to the survey said they had driven a vehicle after drinking. We emphasize "only" because we are being somewhat facetious in that we know even such a relatively small percentage can still lead to tragedy.

Now for the bad news:

That same survey found that 44.1 per­cent of the teens responding said they had emailed or texted while they were driving, and we know from recent local experience that such behavior will – we emphasize will – lead to tragedy.

And the more we learn about so-called distracted driving, the more frightening it gets. Our recent story said this:

"One study at the University of Utah in 2006 using a high-tech driving simula­tor found that cellphone users may show greater impairment – more accidents and less responsive driving behavior – than legally intoxicated drivers."

The data also calls into question laws that permit hands-free cellphone use, saying, "No significant differences were found in the impairment to driving caused by the two modes of cellular com­munication."

In other words, the laws we pass indi­cating that "hands-free" driving is just fine are, one would think, equivalent to saying it’s OK to drive while drinking beer when the cans are attached to your hat and you’re guzzling through a straw: Look, officer, no hands.

We have heard the argument that there are other kinds of distracted driving that are just as dangerous, such as drinking coffee, but we believe that to be non­sense. Here is more information from our recent story:

"According to an organization called EndDD (End Distracted Driving), started by parents of a 21-year-old woman killed as she was crossing a New York City street at a four-way stop, distracted driving is so dangerous because it involves all three kinds of distractions: manual, visual and cognitive – when your mind wanders from the task of driving."

When you’re drinking coffee, your mind might wander a bit, but not nearly as much as if you’re having a conversation about some school-related matter or tex­ting your impending arrival at the basket­ball game.

It’s only common sense. Just try it in the safety of your own home. Do something a bit difficult in, say, the kitchen while you’re texting a friend and remember that whatever it is you’re doing in the kitchen is unlikely to get you killed unless you’re juggling knives. Texting in a car could easily get you killed or could lead you to kill someone else. It’s happened here and all over the country.

Certainly it’s a relief to note that rela­tively few kids are drinking and then driving. Once upon a time that was a se­vere problem. But come on, people, and especially you teenagers: This is danger­ous behavior, and also incredibly unnec­essary. What? You can’t pull over some­place, turn off the engine for a couple of minutes, send your text and get mov­ing again? Is that minute or so of time so important that you’re willing to risk your life, the lives of your passengers or the life of someone crossing the street?

It’s not just risky behavior.

It’s stupid.