Campus News

Texting while driving may soon be illegal in Indiana

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Bethel freshman Jill Hammontree receives a text message while driving near campus. (Photo by Michelle Stoller)
Bethel freshman Jill Hammontree receives a text message while driving near campus. (Photo by Michelle Stoller)"Want to meet Jesus? Text and drive." This message on a church’s marquee may seem ridiculous, but the subject of texting while driving has gained popularity recently. It has become such a hot topic that it’s grabbed the attention of Indiana lawmakers. Currently in Indiana texting while driving is illegal for anyone under the age of 18, but now legislators want to make it illegal for everyone. Earlier this month the Indiana House passed such a bill. It was sent to the Senate and Indiana now waits for a final decision. While the bill is pending, though, the texting debate still stands. Is it a good idea to ban texting behind the wheel? Bethel students and staff are part of this growing discussion. Like the rest of society, the campus has its own collection of opinions when it comes to texting and driving. When surveyed, many admitted to texting while driving, some were adamant about never participating in this act and others were indifferent. "I should care more," said sophomore Jordan Robbins. "It’s probably not wise. Myself included, our generation should not approach [texting] so lackadaisically." Robbins’ conviction about texting is not uncommon. Most students that admitted to texting behind the wheel agreed that their decision was not the best one. "I reply all the time," junior Kendra Stutzman said. Like others, Stutzman has realized how unwise texting while driving can be. Though she doesn’t initiate the messages, she "always texts back" when she’s in the car. Even Tuckey Resident Director Julie Beam has followed the texting while driving trend. She, too, says it’s a bad idea. "I should not be doing it," said Beam. "There have been a number of times I’ve been texting and had to stop [quickly]." Quick stops, swerving from lane to lane and slower speeds are all common occurrences when drivers are texting or messaging on their phones. These obvious dangers are hazardous, yes, but the question of legislating a ban still stands. Beam, even as one who texts and drives, supports the Indiana House’s decision. "I think a law to ban [texting and driving] would be good," she said. Many in the South Bend and Michiana area agree that this ban would be a positive move for Indiana. Recently, WSBT reported on this call for legislation and found several substantial reasons for enforcing this ban. In 2007, a study of texting while driving was conducted. The study revealed the dangers of texting, including loss of peripheral vision and a substantial decrease in speed. Bill Wagner, a driving instructor and owner of Frick’s Driving School in Mishawaka, provided great insight about this subject. "When you’re text messaging, you have the brain four times that of a drunk," Wagner said. He went on to describe the loss of reaction time and awareness that also comes with texting while driving. The dangers of these distractions are seemingly obvious. Whether or not legislation goes through and is approved by the Senate, it might be wise to put the phone away when driving. Or find other ways to improve the safety of your driving. "If you have a buddy with you, have them text," Robbins advised. There are several ways to prevent distractions in the car and ending the texting habit is one of them. Next time you’re behind the wheel and you get that text notification, let it sit. You’ll protect yourself and the lives of those around you.
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