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Texting, driving is real multi-tasking

Several mornings a month I encounter a woman driver on Sheridan Road near its intersection with Robin Road. I’m usually headed for my morning coffee and she appears to be headed to work.

The woman, who is in her early to mid-30s, is amazing. Somehow she manages to drive her eastbound car, drink a cup of coffee or other liquid, and apply makeup at the same time.

I assume she is steering the car with her knees since both hands are often occupied. At least I know the vehicle has an automatic transmission since she would need a third or fourth hand to shift.

One day last week she was driving and texting with her cell phone – driving under electronic influence. More than 3,000 people are killed and more than 400,000 are injured annually by distracted drivers. That doesn’t even include the drunk drivers.

I have seriously considered picking another coffee shop for my morning cup while I read the morning paper. Sheridan and Robin roads have become too deadly for me.

The woman probably believes she is very good at handling text messages while driving. The secret is to keep the text keyboard and screen at eye-level so that you can see most of the traffic and keep up with what’s going on with your friends and family at the same time.

A newspaper columnist in Oklahoma claims he lives in “the perfect state for people with 15- to 30-second attention spans.” Naturally, it is one of a minority of the states without a law against sending and receiving text messages while driving.

Having known two young men who died as a result of texting – one in a head-on collision and the second took his own life after being charged with the death of the first victim – I refuse to text and drive.

The Pew Research Center refers to as “typical” in research findings released earlier this spring that 75 percent of teens use texting as one of their primary forms of communication.”

A fellow coffee drinker said when his 15-year-old granddaughter got her cellphone in middle school, she used it as a telephone, but now texts around the clock.

“If I call her cell phone a recorded message tells me she is not available and to leave a message,” he added. “But if I send her a text, she breaks her thumbs answering a text.”

The number of texts that teens are sending has hit an all-time high across the nation, Pew researchers report. In 2011, the median number of texts sent on a typical day by teens ages 12 to 17 rose to 60. Much of the increase was among those ages 14 to 17, who went from a median of 60 texts a day in 2009 to a median of 100 two years later.

Girls are the most enthusiastic texters, with a median of 100 texts a day last year, compared with 50 for boys the same age.

“It’s just handy; we’re not being anti-social,” her grandfather quoted her as saying.

Perhaps that explains why last year, smartphones outsold all other forms of computing combined – desktops, netbooks and laptops – for the first time.

I wish someone would tell the woman driver on Sheridan Road to put away her cell phone, coffee cup and makeup while she is driving. She frightens me to death. She may be responsible for me giving up coffee.

• • • Larry Fugate is a veteran journalist and former editor of The Pine Bluff Commercial. He can be reached by e-mail at fugatel@sbcglobal.net or at (870) 329-7010.