Sun. Nov 27th, 2022

Beautiful, intelligent Taylor Sauer spent the last moments of her life looking down at her cell phone instead of the road in front of her. She knew what she was doing was dangerous, but she took a chance and gambled with her own safety. Trying to pass the time during her four-hour drive from Utah State University to visit her parents in Caldwell, Idaho, Sauer sent her final message to a friend over Facebook that read, “I can’t discuss this now. Driving and Facebooking is not safe! Haha.” A few seconds later, Sauer crashed into the back of a tanker truck at 80 mph. When emergency responders found her vehicle, it was almost unrecognizable. Investigators found that she did not even have time to brake, which killed her faster than a snap of the fingers. After checking Sauer’s cell phone records, investigators discovered that she was messaging approximately every 90 seconds during the course of her drive.
With almost every person in America owning a cell phone, texting and driving has become one of the leading causes of accidents in the United States today. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reported that texting while driving is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated. Although not every driver in the United States does text and drive, 60 percent of drivers have been reported using their cell phones while operating a vehicle. When sending or receiving a message, five seconds is the average time that your eyes are off of the road. Imagine Sauer, who was sending and receiving a message every 90 seconds during the course of her drive. It is horrifying to imagine how many total seconds, even minutes where her eyes were off of the road in front of her. Texting while driving is a danger for even the most experienced of drivers.
Even if you do not text and drive, how many times have you gotten in a car with a friend who does? How many times do you look over at the cars surrounding you and see someone focused on their cell phone instead of the road?
I have never personally experienced a disaster while texting and driving, but I did conduct my own research while driving home from school the other day. The drive from West Chester University to my home in Broomall takes approximately 30 minutes with minor traffic due to congestion and amount of stoplights on West Chester Pike. Having a friend drive me home in order to do my research, I counted 22 drivers total that were distracted by their cell phones. Twenty-two drivers put not only themselves at risk, but all other vehicles around them at risk due to their lack of attention and careless driving. My life was at risk, even as a passenger in another vehicle. According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving–a number that has held steady since 2010.
I cannot say that I have never texted while driving. I have. But I do not anymore, because I finally understand the risks and dangers associated with it. As young adults, we feel that we can multi-task. We get complacent on the road. We get bored. We feel the impulse to constantly check our phones. Checking messages, Facebooking, surfing the internet, and paying bills are only a few of the many things we do on a cell phone. The impulse to constantly be on it is there, even if we are operating something that we know can cause harm to ourselves and others if we aren’t paying attention. Although Sauer did not hurt any other people in the process, her life was cut short due to her lack of attention to the road and because she felt that she could multi-task behind the wheel.
What if you received a phone call from someone that told you that your best friend died in a horrible accident, all due to a simple message that could have waited? What would you tell them if they were still alive today? Better yet, would you still have the audacity to text and drive? For your sake along with others, I hope the answer would be no. If you are a compulsive texter and always feel the need to be on your phone, here are a few tips that can help save yours or someone else’s life: First thing is first, put it away. Put your phone on silent or turn it off, and stick it in your glove box or inside the pouch of the back of your passenger’s seat. If you do not hear it ring or beep, you won’t feel the impulse to check it. Do NOT text or call another driver if you know they are in the middle of driving. Even if you are not present, how would you feel knowing that your best friend died because the person they were texting was you? If someone is in the car with you and you have to keep your phone on or need to respond to a message, have the passenger answer for you. There are also apps available from ZoomSafer and iZup, which are anti-texting software that prevents drivers from being on their phones while they drive. The next time you get in your car, stop and think about Taylor Sauer and her last words, “I can’t discuss this now. Driving and Facebooking is not safe! Haha.” Better yet, type it into your phone before you get in the car, and stare at your screen. Soak in those last words and actions, because that was the last thing Taylor did before she died.
Michele Patarino is a student at West Chester University. She can be reached at MP616535@wcupa.edu. 

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