Honorable Robert L. Sumwalt

 

Turn car on, turn cell phone off


In the last few years, there has been a lot of discussion about, and increased awareness of, the dangers of texting and driving. Today, all but six states have bans on texting and driving, but to the average person, that can seem a world away.

Many think it's fine to send one little text or look down for a few seconds to read one. But these actions are not only distracting — they are deadly.

Myra Walz of Goose Creek and her family learned that lesson tragically with the death of her niece, Sabrina "Bree" Wilson on June 21.

This is not the first distracted driving accident we have seen at the National Transportation Safety Board and, sadly, it won't be the last.

Over the past 10 years, we have investigated accidents involving distraction across all modes of transportation and issued many safety recommendations to prevent accidents and save lives.

Our most recent recommendation calls for state legislatures to pass laws prohibiting driver use of portable electronic devices while driving. While in many of the cases we have investigated, others were killed as a result of a distracted driver, Bree Wilson was the sole victim. This is just as tragic, for it was certainly not her intent to put herself in danger that day. We as a society must take action so that tragedies like Bree's do not happen again.

Myra Walz is doing her part. She isn't connected to the state Legislature and hasn't been active on such causes before, but motivated by her niece's death, she's attacking the matter at the grass-roots level.

She started a Facebook page and is spreading the word that texting and driving don't mix. Yes, the S.C. Legislature could do more by passing stronger laws addressing distraction, but even in the absence of legislative action, citizens like Myra can raise awareness and challenge the status quo.

I, for one, say good for her! By sharing her message, Myra is working to ensure that other families won't suffer the unimaginable pain that hers has had to endure.

A safety movement doesn't have to start with a legislature; it can start with ordinary people like Myra. So when you turn your car on — turn your phone off. The life you save could very well be your own.

Robert L. Sumwalt III