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Our view: Texting pledge OK, but will it be effective?

Updated: February 11, 2013 7:22AM



The students and faculty at Providence Catholic High School in New Lenox have decided to take a stand by pledging not to text while driving. That’s great and could save lives, but here’s the “however” — pledges, like laws, are only as useful as the enforcement attached to them.

The pledge is part of AT&T’s national “It Can Wait” initiative that has inspired roughly 1.2 million such commitments and is gearing up to become partners with hundreds of corporations and nonprofits nationally. There’s a sound and obvious theory at work — no danger of missing a message while driving is worth the added risk of the driver’s texting.

Distracted driving kills thousands every year. Fatalities while texting might be the fastest-growing category of highway mayhem in the country. It’s almost as deadly for pedestrians.

But what happens when a Providence student witnesses a friend violating the texting pledge? Or when they see a teacher texting on the road? The answer is nothing except for shared disapproval. It’s a large burden to place on peer pressure, though motivated students can be a powerful force.

What will be the tangible benefits of this schoolwide pledge? We can hope that educated teens get lots smarter, along with everyone else who texts while driving, about the danger involved and are able to police themselves. We’re less sure about the real effect.

The ultimate deterrent to behind-the-wheel texting is not a pledge but technology currently being developed that kills all texting signals (excluding police, fire, medical, critical emergency, etc.) from inside a vehicle while its wheels are moving.

AT&T has developed free, proprietary no-calling-while-driving technology called DriveMode that loads on smartphones. Samsung and HTC have plans to preload DriveMode onto smartphones this year. 

In the meantime, we’re hopeful about human nature but dubious. Maybe that seems too harsh, but on some life-and-death issues we’d rather rely on remorseless technology than the human tendency to fallibility.



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