Kim Buckley

Imagine a world where everyone texted while driving. There would be a lot more car accidents and deaths. The roads wouldn’t be safe for drivers anymore.

Society is getting close to this kind of reality. About 11 teens die every day because they get into a car crash. According to the Institute for Highway Safety, these teens aren’t drinking and driving. Instead, they’re texting.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. A recent survey by AT&T shows that, not teens, need this month’s reminder to stop driving while distracted. Drivers of all ages need to stop texting when they get behind the wheel. More and more adults are texting while driving, including college students.

Recently, AT&T released a survey of driving habits. Out of all the people surveyed, more than half of the adults admitted to texting while driving, a higher percentage than young drivers. Almost all of them said they knew that the habit could be dangerous.

Adults aren’t the only people who need to be reminded to stop texting and driving. About half of all college students text while they drive, according to a 2009 Fresno State study. The habit can be a problem, especially on campus where lots of students ride bicycles or walk.

When getting behind the wheel of the car, teenagers are told to watch out for other teenagers being irresponsible. What they aren’t told is to watch out for adult drivers, too.

College students should care about teenagers texting while driving, especially if they have younger siblings. Even if you don’t drive, you still share the road with drivers walking to and from classes.

How many times have you seen someone texting while driving? Odds are it’s a common sight. In 2009, more than a million drivers got into an accident because they were using their cellphones or texting, according to the National Safety Council.

In fact, drivers are more likely to get into an accident when they text than if they drink and drive. Yes, your smartphone can be more dangerous than alcohol when you’re behind the wheel. The problem of texting while driving has gotten worse, especially when drivers have the ability to check Twitter or Facebook on their phones.

Many people have seen drivers pick up their cell phones once they stop at a red light or a stop sign. They may just be checking for any missed text messages. They’ll probably answer it if they see that one of their friends just texted them. They may just hear a sound of an incoming text message and pick it up to see who it is. No matter the intention, it’s still dangerous to text and drive.

Adults who text and drive set a bad example for teens. A lot of times, teens see adult drivers texting and assumes that it’s OK. In fact, 77 percent of teens notice adults texting and driving “all the time,” according to an AT&T teen driver survey. It may not be their parents, but they still see other adults text and drive.

The perception that adults can text and drive means young drivers will continue to text and drive as they grow older. Especially because bad driving habits transfer from drivers to children.

About half of children age 12 to 17 say they have been in a car where the driver was texting, according to Pew Research Center. Furthermore, 15 percent surveyed said they have seen their parents text and drive.

Most Americans think these behaviors are dangerous. According to the AT&T teen driver survey, almost all of the teens surveyed said texting while driving was dangerous. They continue to text and drive because they believe they won’t get into an accident. The overconfidence of some drivers can lead to a car crash with serious consequences, like multiple injuries or even death.

Studies have shown that texting or talking on the phone distracts drivers. A lot of people think texting while driving is easy, but it takes the driver’s eyes off the road. It also increases the amount of time teen drivers spend driving outside of their lane.

Organizations have tried several ways to encourage drivers to stop texting.

Last week in Philadelphia, the streets department sent mimes and clowns to startle drivers who were playing with their phones. While it got the attention of the drivers, the tactic won’t work in the long-run. First off, mimes and clowns are creepy. Secondly, public scolding is likely to just make those drivers mad.

Also, lobbyists have encouraged the passage of legislative bills to make texting and driving against the law. Some of these laws ban the outright use of cellphones while driving. Despite the increase of laws banning texting while driving, teens ignore them.

In Nebraska, it’s illegal to text and drive. If caught, drivers can get ticketed and fined. Drivers under the age of 18 are also banned from using a cellphone at all.

Lawmakers and public officials aren’t the only people who can encourage safe driving behaviors. Parents can, too.

Adult drivers can set an example for teens, and they don’t even have to turn their phones off. Many drivers believe that driving safe means turning off their cellphones or ignoring text messages or phone calls.

Both options can be seen as being rude, especially when the sender doesn’t know that the receiver is driving. Society can help curb the number of drivers texting by changing societal expectations.

Many people believe phone calls or text messages will get answered immediately. By changing that expectation, drivers would be encouraged to keep their eyes on the road instead of their phones.

However, drivers don’t have to sacrifice politeness to be safe.

The first option they have is to travel with a buddy. If drivers get a text message or a phone call, they can have their friend in the passenger seat respond.

If the driver is alone, he or she can also pull off to the side of the road or the nearest convenient place to park. The second option also works if a driver keeps the cell phone is a hard-to-reach place to help them resist the temptation to be on the phone while driving.

Both options let drivers respond to emergency texts or let people contacting them that they are on the road.

Furthermore, drivers can also download apps to help break the habit of texting and driving . While apps can distract drivers, these were made to do the opposite.

Companies have designed apps to block text messages from getting through or send automated replies to the sender letting them know that the driver is behind the wheel. While some of these apps cost money, there are some free ones, like DriveOFF and DriveMode.

Adult drivers should start driving safer and not text and drive. They can help make the roads safer for themselves and their children by taking precautions.

Adults, please keep your hands on the wheel when driving. Not your phone.

Kim Buckley is a senior-news editorial major.

Follow her on Twitter @kimceebee or email her at opinion@dailynebraskan.com