By Maggie Collett
Staff reporter

A ding from the console. A quick glance down and a reply tapped out in a few seconds. A peek back at the road and suddenly the vehicle is in the other lane. A swerve and a screeching of tires and the car is fortunately under control again. Another close call from texting and driving.

Chris Roark, patrol sergeant for the Winfield Police Department, said there is a law against texting and driving but it’s tough to enforce. “How are you supposed to distinguish between texting and dialing?” said Roark. Currently there is no law against talking on the phone while driving in Kansas, but Roark said it’s in the works. Roark said most people won’t admit to texting and driving. “They’ll say they were distracted and later change their story and say they were messing with the radio,” said Roark. If it can be proven, a ticket can be issued for texting and driving.

Roark doesn’t text and drive. “I can barely sit here and text.”
Although he doesn’t send texts of his own, Roark has had experience with texting and driving. “A young man was texting and driving and hit the back end of my car in front of my house,” said Roark.

Dawn Pleas-Bailey, vice president for student life, said she used to text and drive. “We’re so addicted to the phone,” said Pleas-Bailey. “We’re in Kansas so we think that we can see everyone coming but it could be the dog or the deer or the car that shoots out of nowhere.”

Pleas-Bailey said she was in Kechi when a shop worker changed her views. “She asked if I was doing the Oprah challenge,” said Pleas-Bailey. After explaining that the challenge was to quit texting and driving, the worker asked Pleas-Bailey to promise her that she would no longer text and drive. “I couldn’t lie to her. Since that day, I haven’t done it,” said Pleas-Bailey. “I just think what if it’s my mother or a loved one that I injure?”

Pleas-Bailey said people text and drive because they think they are superior to everyone else. “They think, ‘It’s me, I’m better at it,’” said Pleas-Bailey. “But I can’t hold you to a standard if I don’t do it also.”
Dan Falk, dean of students, said he doesn’t text and drive. “It can wait until I get home,” said Falk. The reason Falk doesn’t text and drive is because it’s new to him. “High school and college kids text all the time,” said Falk. “I’m paranoid about driving.”

Jen Nicholson, Cole Hall resident director, said the reason texting and driving is such a big trend is because society is evolving away from teaching kids good driving habits. “It’s one thing for a parent to say not to do it, but then they’re sitting in the front seat texting,” said Nicholson.

Lashae Bacon, business freshman, took Nicholson’s ideas one step farther. “I had a friend whose parents taught him to text and drive because they knew he would do it anyway,” said Bacon. “I think it should be a requirement for the driver’s test.”

Everyone knows that texting and driving is a bad habit, but most people still do it.
Bacon said, “Everyone thinks they’re invincible or they’ve done it so many times or they don’t even have to look at their phones anymore.”

Falk was in agreement with Bacon. “You get so caught up in your own world and have the confidence for it. You think, ‘I can do it. I can multitask,’” said Falk.

Pleas-Bailey said the law doesn’t do much other than reinforce the people that wouldn’t do it anyway. “There’s a speed limit but no one follows it,” said Pleas-Bailey.

According to the study, “A Comparison of the Cell Phone Driver and the Drunk Driver,” by David L. Strayer, Frank A. Drews, and Dennis J. Crouch, drivers who are distracted by a cell phone are just as dangerous as intoxicated drivers. The cell phone users react slower and have delayed brake response, resulting in more traffic accidents.

So if texting and driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, why do people do it?
Said Roark, “Why do people drive drunk?”

Maggie Collett is a freshman majoring in communication. You can e-mail her at Margaret.collett@sckans.edu.