Dave Belton is a Morgan County school board member worried about teens texting while driving in the aftermath of the death of college student in his district. Texting is suspected in two recent accidents. (Read the AJC story on the accidents, one of which involved a death.)
Here is an op-ed piece that he wrote and that will appear in the AJC on the education page Monday:
By Dave Belton
He was driving down one of the gentle roads that meander through our sleepy pastures here in Morgan County.
Coming home for Christmas after a great freshman year at college, he couldn’t wait to tell his mama how many A’s he’d earned.
An athlete, a scholar — the kind of boy you hope your daughter brings home.
Things were going so well, he recently had called his grandmother and told her, “I’m the luckiest guy alive.”
A quick text to his beautiful girlfriend and …
The walls of the church groaned at the size of the funeral. The brave father told me, “I wish there was some way to spread the word.”
A mourner asked, “We’ve lost a child. Isn’t that enough? What more needs to happen before we do something?”
In a legislative session sure to yield few positive results due to the current budget crisis, wouldn’t it be nice if Georgia passed a law against teenagers’ fastest growing killer — texting behind the wheel.
Oprah’s talking about it. Recently, she featured a couple whose daughter was cut down by a careless driver talking on a cell phone, a few yards from their house.
Law firms and cell phone companies are erecting billboards, and parents of the slain — grieving at their loss — are mobilizing in huge numbers.
Most states have laws against cell phones behind the wheel. A bill aimed at teens passed the Georgia House last March, but stalled. Now, two
more texting bills have been introduced. It’s time to advance those bills.
The statistics are alarming. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 80 percent of automobile accidents are cause by driver distraction — and what could be more distracting than texting? When researchers tell us cell phone use behind the wheel makes a driver four times more likely to get into a crash, it is easy to see why teens are being hit so hard.
According to Car and Driver magazine, the reaction time of someone texting while driving is three times worse than when legally drunk and the stopping distance goes from 4 to 70 feet.
More disturbing is the breadth of the menace. Several studies confirm nearly half of all teens text while driving.
Cell phones are involved in 1.6 million accidents a year, causing half a million injuries and 6,000 deaths, according to the Department of Transportation.
The motor vehicle death rate of teens caused by cell phones is 21 percent and rising by an astonishing 4 percent a year.
That means 50 Georgia teens will die this year on their cell phones.
I don’t like “nanny state” laws any more than you do. And some might see this as an infringement of your rights. I respect that view.
But driving is a privilege, not a right. Those who argue that laws don’t matter ought to review the history of seat belt usage. Since New York passed the first mandatory seat belt law in 1984, usage in this country has risen to 83 percent and thousands of lives have been saved.
The reckless endangerment of other people’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness is not what our Founding Fathers had in mind.
If you think — as I do — that one needlessly lost life is one too many, I urge you to contact your representatives and tell them to pass these bills.
Do it today, while the session is fresh and legislative agendas are forming.
A fine young man — his name was Caleb — is dead.
Isn’t that enough?
Dave Belton is a Republican board of education member in Morgan County