Friday, May 24, 2024
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Driving Near De Anza College in Cupertino, CA Can be a Little Too Exciting


Sophia (no last name for reasons that will shortly become apparent), a 20-year-old De Anza student, discussed recently what it would take to stop her from texting while driving. "Getting a ticket! No, no if I killed somebody."

Hear Sophia in her own voice: {audio}Sounds/If_I.mp3{/audio}

According to the IRC study one idea to change this behavior, is to block cell phones or smart phones from sending or receiving text messages in a moving vehicle.

De Anza students want much more than that. They said they would prefer a rewards program that drives your insurance rates down consistently year after year, or credits for each blocked text.

“If every year you get down half a percent or a percent over the years it’s going to add up, “ said Juan Larin, a 20-year-old engineering major at De Anza.“Something like that would be really nice.”

Matt Talebi, a 22-year–old graphics design major, thinks the insurance companies should work out a policy credit system that if you voluntarily added the blocking software to your phone “each time they block a text they should deduct an amount,” he said.

Out of 1,400 licensed drivers surveyed by Harris Interactive, 53 percent said they would be somewhat or very likely to use such a product or service if it involved no additional cost. Interest dropped sharply, however, if a blocking product or service involved a $10 monthly cost.

Some De Anza students are having none of that. Thinking about the Harris Interactive study idea, 20-year-old Dana, a film major said, “I’m not going to pay to torture myself.” 

Dana speaks: {audio}Sounds/Pay.mp3{/audio}

Talebi agreed. “I wouldn’t pay for something that they were forcing on me. They should supply it,” he said.

Ashwin Srinivasan, a 21-year-old De Anza student took another view. “I think that’s rather ridiculous; you know why? Because I think that at least I would be intelligent enough not to read the text even if I got one.” So I wouldn’t really bother buying software,” he said.

Driver distraction was involved in 5,474 fatal crashes in 2009, according to  the U.S. Department of Transportation.

That doesn’t seem to faze students on the De Anza campus. Yet some have changed their behavior since the new ban on handheld phone use took effect in California.

“I’m more, I guess, aware of cops. I look before I text, I'm hyper vigilant,” said Sara, a 26-year-old De Anza student. “I’m really good at it, text and driving,” she said.

Here's Sara: {audio}Sounds/Aware.mp3{/audio} 

Sophia knows what to do. “I have to pull over but I don’t really pull over,I just sneak it.”

Students seem to be confused on how the new statute works in regards to texting while driving.

“I might read them at a red light but I don’t reply,” said Dana. He thinks that is legal.

“I do check it,” said Brian, a 20-year-old De Anza student. On my Blackberry if I get a text it will show up like right here so I’ll see it, but I won’t text back. So I won’t read it but I just know a text has come in.”

Reading a text but not responding was a common excuse with De Anza students. But the law is quite clear . It’s illegal.

In the State of California :

• Hand holding a cell phone and texting is banned for all drivers.

• A ban on all cell phone use (handheld and hands-free) for bus drivers and for novice drivers.

Students are willing to take more risks texting when there is more social incentive, for example if it’s Friday night and plans are yet to be made. Alternatively, when there is less structure, or if a parent is no longer watching over them, fingers are flying.

“If my parents aren’t there, yes,” said Juan, a 24-year-old occupational therapy major. If my friends are going out I’m text-McGee. I do whatever; I’ll text all day. It all depends on who you are with and what time of the day it is.”

Juan texts it tells it like it is: {audio}Sounds/Text.mp3{/audio}

Even the cell phone industry wants you to stop texting in your car. CTIA,The Wireless Association that has represented the wireless communications industry since 1984, has begun a series of public service campaigns titled, “On the Road, Off the Phone,” targeting the subject of texting.

The U.S. National Highway Transport Safety Administration has an entire website dedicated to distracted driving.

But as Juan points out, “People need to know information as soon as possible. It’s not like we need to know it, it’s more convenient.” It is that internal conflict for each driver with a cell phone that makes the world a bit more dangerous for everyone else on the road.