drivN n txtN wl kil u

  • Published
  • By Maj. Sean Campbell
  • 127th Wing Chief of Safety
Technology is a wonderful thing, until it becomes the thing that gets you or some other innocent person killed. We should all know that in accordance with Department of Defense policy, anyone driving a motor vehicle on a DoD installation cannot use a cell phone unless the vehicle is safely parked or the driver is using a hands-free device.

How many of you have violated that? You may all put your hands down. I've seen it, you've seen it and based on information from the Security Forces Squadron, many have done it. Did you know that you will be paying $75 bucks on base if you get caught? Well it's only money and it's only a recession!

What about off base? There are laws against using a handheld device such as a cell phone as well as laws that prohibit text messaging while driving. Currently ten states (Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Louisiana, Minnesota, New Jersey, Utah, Virginia, and Washington State) and Washington DC have a text messaging ban for all drivers. Only five states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and Washington State) currently prohibit all drivers from talking on handheld cell phones while driving. With the exception of Washington State, law enforcement officials may ticket a driver for using a handheld phone while driving without any other offense taking place. If you cross the border, many of the Canadian provinces including Ontario (yes the one that we would be in if we crossed the border) ban drivers from using hand-held cell phones.

So what about Michigan? Well it depends. The state does not have a law, but it allows localities to determine their own cell-phone driving laws. For example, if you are in Detroit and talking on a cell phone while driving, you are fine, right up until you run a red light or are pulled over for speeding or not wearing a seatbelt. At that point, you can be fined an additional $100 as a secondary offense of driving while distracted. Make sure you mark all this down on your map before you go on a road trip, and take a lawyer with you as well. Wait, I have a better idea!

Have you seen the bumper sticker that reads "Hang up and drive?" Look around you as you are driving home tonight. Count the number of drivers who are on a cell phone, or worse are texting on a cell phone. How safe do you feel? For those of you who do this, how often have you been engaged with your cell phone and missed your turn, inadvertently changed lanes, or my favorite...had absolutely no idea what happened on the road between when the phone rang and when you pulled into your driveway? Do you think that you would have reacted well enough to the unexpected event on the road to keep from getting in an accident?

Last year I briefed the wing about an accident on the west side of the state where a distracted truck driver plowed into the back of my sister-in-law's Envoy killing her and leaving two girls without a mother. That driver was unable to react to the stopped traffic, and he had lots of signs to indicate the upcoming hazard. His sentence...less than one year in jail. In California, you may all remember the train engineer who was texting on his phone seconds before he plowed his commuter train into a freight locomotive killing 25 people. His conviction and sentence was carried out immediately by the impact.

Ok, so you are older, you don't text (that's for kids), you rarely talk on the phone or perhaps you use the hands free device. Great, but what about your kids? Do you emphasize this to them? Do they see you talking or texting while driving? Everyone knows the most dangerous thing on the road next to a drunk driver is a car full of teenagers. You are the parent, do what you need to and make your kids listen to you. Buy them a hands free device, look at their text message log and see if they have been texting when you know they were driving. Save a life.