NEWS | March 2, 2011

Texting while driving - a dangerous distraction

By Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Brannon Deugan Joint Base Charleston Public Affairs Office

It happens every day. While driving on a congested highway, a driver's cell phone beeps indicating a new text message. As he digs through books, papers and empty fast food wrappers in the passenger seat trying to locate his phone, his eyes wander from the road. He finds it lodged between the seat back and cushion, glances back to the road and then back to his phone to read the message, which simply says, 'get milk'. If the message had said, 'hey, look at the road while you're driving,' perhaps he wouldn't have rear-ended the car that had come to a complete stop in front of him, totaling his vehicle and injuring the passengers of the car he just hit.

The use of cell phones while driving creates tiny spans of time when a driver's eyes wander from the road, prohibiting a driver from properly reacting to hazards that can suddenly appear.

"It is plain and simple, texting while driving is dangerous," said Naval Support Activity Command Master Chief Billy Cady. "As much as we think we can multi-task, we can't. When something diverts our attention from the road, such as a non-urgent text message, an accident can happen or worse, someone can die. Diverting your attention from the road, even for a few seconds can be devastating."

In two separate studies, one comparing drunk driving to texting while driving, researchers found that a drunk driver traveling at 35 mph stopped an average of four feet farther down the road than the sober, undistracted driver. A driver traveling at the same speed and distracted by texting traveled, on average, 25 feet beyond their baseline distance before completely stopping the car.

A second study conducted in 2009 by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, showed a risk of collision is 1.3 times more likely while reaching for a phone or other electronic device. The study also came to the conclusion that a driver attempting to text while behind the wheel has their eyes off the road an average of 4.6 seconds out of every six seconds, making that driver 2.8 times more likely to have an accident.

Due to the danger associated with texting and driving, 30 states in the United States as well as Guam have banned texting while driving altogether and eight others have prohibited texting for new drivers.

On Joint Base Charleston the use of handheld electronic devices without the hands-free method is prohibited while operating a motor vehicle, period.

"The policy prohibiting cell phone use without hands-free devices is meant to save lives," said William Scheer, 628th Security Forces Squadron, Weapons Station operations manager. "Sailors, Airmen and civilians working on JB CHS need to be able to drive on the installations without worrying about getting into an accident caused by someone using a cell-phone."

To enforce this regulation, the 628 SFS issues tickets to violators. Based on the number of offenses, base restrictions include:

· 1st Offense: Three points on the offender's driving record and an 18-calendar-day suspension of driving privileges on any installation.
· 2nd Offense: Four points on the offender's driving record and a 90-calendar-day suspension of driving privileges on any installation.
· 3rd Offense: Five points on the offender's driving record and a one-year suspension of driving privileges on any installation.

"Base restrictions on cell phone usage while driving are in place to protect our service members and their loved ones, not as an inconvenience factor," said NSA Executive Officer Charles Phillip. "Our service members are essentially the bread and butter that keep a command together and get the job done.

Those few seconds it takes to check a text message could be the last for some and we don't want that to happen to any of our service members here at JB Charleston," he concluded. "Be aware of the dangers of texting while driving, just don't do it."