A young man who wrote an essay published in LA Weekly is being roundly criticized for asserting that there is nothing wrong with texting while driving. The writer, Hillel Aron, makes light of the laws against the behavior, despite the many studies showing that texting while driving causes crashes, injuries, and deaths.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 3,328 people were killed and about 421,000 were injured in 2012 alone due to distracted driving accidents, according to a press release, as this blog has reported. Forty-three states ban texting while driving (including Colorado), plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In his essay, “Yes, I Text and Drive. No, I’m Not Sorry,” Aron writes that we live in “an age of wonder” in which we can ping short phrases and icons to each other via text messages. He opines: “Let’s face it, we all text in the car some of the time.” He then adds that, according to a 2013 survey (the AAA of California’s annual roadside observational survey), texting while driving had increased by 126% four years after it was first banned.
Aron then boasts:
I think of myself as a highly developed human being, capable of tweeting while switching across four lanes of traffic at LAX. But I’ve always excelled at doing things while only half paying attention.
Among the many comments that people posted to Aron’s essay:
As someone that totalled my car because of texting while driving in “bumper to bumper” traffic, I can say that this is the stupidest article I have ever read in my entire life.
Anybody who genuinely believes that they shouldn’t have to stay completely focused while controlling 4000 pounds of metal, is somebody who shouldn’t be behind a wheel.
A car is a dangerous piece of machinery, there’s a reason we require driver’s licenses to use one. When you’re busy texting while driving, you’re not in control of the car.
Get off the phone or get off the road !
You are shamefully irresponsible. I hope everybody reads this and you never get a job again. Moron.
Following the barrage of scathing comments about his piece, Aron told columnist Jim Romenesco that he had suddenly changed his mind. Asked what he was hearing in response to his essay, Aron said it was a very negative reaction.
Aron told Romenesco:
I’ve been thinking a lot about it. I guess I’ve been convinced that I’m wrong. It’s strange how when one side feels really strongly about something, it makes their argument more convincing. I’m not sure that’s how it should be, but that’s how it is.
After seeing the responses to his essay, Aron sent a text message while at a red light, “and then immediately felt guilty,” he told Romenesco. Aron said if he had to rewrite his essay, he would title it: “Yes I text when I drive, yes I feel guilty.”
In a related news item, Tim Peterson reports for Advertising Age that YouTube stars Rhett and Link were hired by NHTSA to create an anti-texting public service announcement. The duo, whose real names are Rhett LcLaughlin and Charles Lincoln Neal, spend three and a half minutes in the video (which you can see below) having a rap battle to discourage people from texting while driving.
Two weeks ago, as we reported in this blog, an associate dean at Harvard’s School of Public Health suggested that comedians be recruited to make fun of distracted drivers to shame them into focusing on the road. Peterson writes that Rhett and Link’s “I’m a Textpert” video has been watched more than 2.8 million times since being uploaded on April 7. It made it onto YouTube’s list of top-10 ads last month as well, he notes.
You can see the PSA here: