Eight days ago I implored the Dallas City Council -- on behalf of its stated No. 1 priority: public safety -- to expand its ban on motorists using mobile phones in school zones to a citywide ban. This is the same Dallas City Council acting, it said, to protect the health and welfare of its citizens, that banned smoking in all public places. For the most part, I can choose whether I want to shun a bar or a restaurant because it permits smoking by patrons, but I'm afraid I have no choice but to use the roads in our fair city; in fact I use them daily, more often than not.
But perhaps a citywide mobile phone ban on motorists while operating a moving vehicle may be too radical position for our timid council members to take. But here's a first step: ban texting while driving. It doesn't take a genius to realize that a driver simply cannot text and watch on the road on which he is driving at the same time.
Now there's a study on drivers texting inside their vehicles that's about to be released by researchers at Virginia Tech University which shows that the risk sharply exceeds previous estimates based on laboratory research — and far surpasses the dangers of other driving distractions.
"The new study, which entailed outfitting the cabs of long-haul trucks with video cameras over 18 months, found that when the drivers texted, their collision risk was 23 times greater than when not texting," according to the New York Times' story on the study.
Here's the frightening part of this study: When texting, drivers typically look at their devices for up to five seconds -- "enough time at typical highway speeds to cover more than the length of a football field."
Please, council members, take this first step of banning texting while driving. My son drives his 3-year-old daughter to pre-school camp at the Jewish Community Center every day before he heads to his medical school studies. While reading about this Virginia Tech study, I could not help but think about them being blindsided by some errant texting driver.
If public safety is indeed the No. 1 priority of you folks on the City Council (although I do realize that, at this moment, passing a balanced budget that won't anger your constituents too much is really your No. 1 priority) and if you are really serious about protecting our well-being, as you said you were when you passed the smoking ban, than the time has come to at least ban texting while operating a motor vehicle on the streets of Dallas.