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McCULLOUGH: Texting ban would save lives

As you're probably aware, there is a proposal before the General Assembly to make it a crime to text while driving. One need look no farther than this county to see why this bill is a good idea:

• On Jan. 23, a 19-year-old Lilburn man was hospitalized with serious head injuries after police said he crashed his vehicle into a telephone pole while sending a text message.

• That same week, Alabama police said another Lilburn man was sending a text when he ran a red light in Athens, Ala., hitting the car of 59-year-old Edna Taylor Barker Harris, who was killed in the crash.

• And just this week, police charged Lori Reineke with vehicular homicide in what they are calling the first case of its type in Gwinnett. Police say Reineke was texting when she struck a pedestrian on Sugarloaf Parkway last October, killing him. (Reineke's attorney denies that claim.)

Many of us are probably guilty of texting while driving. I know I've done it. But many of us have also probably found ourselves in the middle of a close call because of texting as well.

The incident that cured me of it happened in Winder. A flat-bed 18-wheeler nearly ran into me head-on on Atlanta Highway.

The whole thing lasted maybe three seconds. One second he was in his lane. The next he was in mine. I had nowhere to go. Then he looked up and pulled back into his own lane just before he would've creamed me.

The instant before, when I was watching the truck close in on me and thinking, "So this is how my story ends," I saw the driver leaning over his steering wheel, staring intently at his cell phone and tapping on the keys. He was using two hands — on the phone, not the steering wheel. And yeah, that's how close he came to me. And to killing me.

After that, the urge to text while I was driving went away, though I will admit to still doing it occasionally while stopped at red lights. I don't text very often at all in the first place, much less on the road, but maybe even at red lights is too much.

You just can't focus on the two tasks of driving and texting at the same time. And in case you haven't heard this handy little fact, every second you take your eyes off the road to look at your cell phone screen translates into a long distance traveling the road while essentially blind. For example, if you're going 60 miles per hour, that's a mile a minute. That's 88 feet per second. That's 88 feet in just a glance at your phone. Stare intently at it while you craft a "War and Peace"-style reply and you're talking more like multiple football-field distances.

The bottom line is we just don't need to be in that much constant contact with each other. Whatever it is can wait. If it's an emergency, then call them. Most folks I see talking on cell phones are usually driving slow and tying up traffic, but at least they're looking at the road and not down in their lap.

Technology has created some wonderful gadgets that make life easier. But they can also have deadly side effects. So join me. Pledge to never text while driving.

As the sign says in the old Flannery O'Connor story, the life you save may be your own.

E-mail Nate McCullough at nate.mccullough@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Fridays.