Texting isn’t worth dying for, drivers

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Like all of us, I struggle to manage all of the demands of daily life — as the University of Memphis men’s basketball head coach and teacher, a husband and father and an active member of the community.
Many days, I feel like a multitasking ninja — preparing for practices and games, keeping up with correspondence, meetings and calls and connecting with my family, players, staff, friends and associates. But there is one place I do not multitask: behind the wheel of my car.
By now, we should all know how dangerous texting and driving is. The National Safety Council reports that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Despite the fact that most drivers know how dangerous texting behind the wheel is, people do it every day.

Driving to campus, I see drivers who are crowding the lane or going too slow or too fast or otherwise driving erratically. Many times, these folks are not looking at the road; they are focused on their cellphones.
The temptation to respond to texts while driving is very strong, but we can all overcome this with commitment, a commitment to do the right thing. On one wall of the Finch Center, there is a big sign reading, “Commitment: You’re in or you’re out. There is no in between.” Commitment is what it takes for our players to do their jobs academically, athletically, to be good citizens and to be good teammates. Commitment is also what it takes to do the right thing behind the wheel — to never text and drive.
Last year, I encouraged all local residents to take the “It Can Wait” pledge to never text and drive. Many joined more than 2.5 million Americans in taking that pledge. This is a great start, but we have more work to do.
In the last year, the It Can Wait movement has grown. What started as an AT&T initiative in 2009 is now a collaboration among the four major wireless carriers and over 200 other organizations across the country.
The It Can Wait movement is making a difference. One in three people who have seen the texting-while-driving message say they’ve changed their driving habits.
The campaign has inspired more than 2.5 million pledges never to text and drive. The recently launched “From One Second To The Next” — a documentary available on YouTube — has received more than 2 million views since Aug. 8.

Speaking up about the dangers of texting and driving makes a difference. A recent ConnectSafely.org survey found that individuals who speak up can have a profound impact, particularly on teens.
n Seventy-eight percent of teen drivers say they’re likely not to text and drive if friends tell them it’s wrong or stupid.
n Ninety percent say they’d stop if a friend in the car asked them to.
n Ninety-three percent would stop if a parent in the car asked them to.
n Forty-four percent say that they would be thankful if a passenger complained about their texting while driving.
You can help spread the word to your family, friends and communities. You can change your social profile photos and banner to It Can Wait graphics, and share your personal pledge stories using the hashtag #ItCanWait. You can host a pledge drive and distribute posters in your communities and neighborhoods; see ItCanWait.com.
Please join me on Drive 4 Pledges to put an end to texting while driving. No text is worth dying for.
Josh Pastner is coach of the University of Memphis men’s basketball team. This commentary first appeared in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.