As many of us know quite predominantly, it has been ingrained into our minds that beyond a shadow of a doubt, drinking and driving is by far the most dangerous thing one can do behind the wheel. It seems as though most people try to steer clear of handling  a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, as there seems to be a constant perfusion of television commercials, assembly discussions, and posters all encouraging young drivers to never drive under the influence. However, with all the attempts that the government and other institutions make to try and ingrain these facts into our heads, is it time that these same powers put as much emphasis and negative stigma to the dangers of texting and driving? Is texting and driving as dangerous as drinking and driving? If so how do we effectively tell our peers that this, a seemingly more socially acceptable diversion, has as many consequences as driving under the influence?

To answer these and other questions about the dangers of texting and driving, a UC Merced Public Health class started vigorously conducting research. Professor Stephen Wooding led the discussion and deliberately assigned students with an issue that affects youth in widespread numbers. “I was searching for problems that would be related to the community here.” Dr. Wooding commented on the issue, “it is essentially equally [as] dangerous [as drinking and driving].”

It was found in the class’ research that texting and driving poses the same amount of danger as having a 0.08 blood alcohol content, even though it was found that about a third of all student-driving trips result in checking the phone at one point or another. Additionally, it was discovered that bluetooth, other hands-free devices, and even listening to music did not make much of a difference in teen accidents since they were all considered distractions.   

ph1121Wooding also had his students watch a short film called “From One Second To The Next,” which chronicles the stories of multiple vehicular accidents caused by texting and driving. Students were emotionally drained at the devastation presented in the video. Many began to see the causes and effects of faulty legislation and communities not putting enough emphasis on the well-being of their children. “The reason they don’t do these things is [because they say] ‘Oh we don’t we don’t have the funding,’” says  student Daniel Sabzehzar, “The question is how do you put a dollar sign on the death of a child?”

Students debated afterwards mostly on what could be done to help prevent these events from happening. Although many tactics and protocols were mentioned, the general consensus of the class seemed to be that broader forces should collaborate and work on preventative solutions that can tackle the problems before they even arise. Testimonials, statistics, and dramatizations are all equally important for people to see.  Daren Tatch would comment, “If we take broader baby steps towards the solution we want, eventually we’ll see that we’ll be able to address topics more specifically. We want to broaden the scope just to start the movement.”This class also encourages people who don’t text and drive to help do their part in realizing that accidents can happen to the most unassuming. “You can be doing nothing wrong and somebody else can be texting and driving and kill you…” Nicole Morgan chimed, “It needs to be a group effort by everybody.”   


Photo Credit: Marcus Fox