JACK SIMPSON: Texting and driving can cost you more than personal interaction

This old world is a fast-moving place and time is ever marching on. Old friends have passed and new laws and regulations have us in a tizzy. The economy is not what it used to be, and folks cannot find jobs that offer good wages and benefits.

American communications are evolving from personal and phone conversations to texting. The younger generation has gone to forgetting how to spell and use the proper grammar because they are making up and using abbreviations in high-speed text messages.

Look around you. Everywhere you go and particularly in vehicles driving next to you are individuals chatting at one another by pushing buttons on a small hand-held communications device. Many have long since withdrawn from the real world and stayed glued to their small screens. They have lost the skills of face-to-face conversation.

We went to a funeral not too long ago. Many family members and friends gathered from far and near to pay respect to the deceased. Among the crowd was a young man who looked to be about 12 years old. He came in with his cell phone, sat in a corner of the room, texting and playing games the entire time of his visit. He spoke to no one, had no interaction with anyone. He has not learned the skills of face-to-face conversation and is not about to do so if he continues living his life through texting. Apparently he has spent his early youth watching television, playing video games, and texting. He would benefit from face-to-face talking and listening — and interacting with more of the family and friends. Will he try?

Cell phone texting may be a preferred way to communicate for some people. It does come with a price if not done carefully. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration told us that texting distraction caused about 18 percent of our fatal crashes in 2010. We have plenty of examples that reflect texting places drivers and others at risk.

One example is the Texas college student who liked to text on the road, and felt she was proficient enough to do it at 80 mph. She did not believe she was unduly distracted, but on one occasion while speeding down a local highway, she took her eyes off the road to text, crashed into the back of a tanker truck and was killed instantly.

A good rule to follow when driving is “on the road, off the phone.” Texting while driving is deadly behavior, as proficient as this student felt she was, she was not able, while texting, to react to a sudden change happening in front of her. She could not prevent a fatal accident.

You can call me an old fuddy duddy because I have not embraced texting. I enjoy personal, face-to-face contacts. I like to hear voices, look at facial expressions, hear different tones. Talking through a gadget does not thrill me.

For me, it is more personal to interact with another individual face-to-face and there is less possibility of being misunderstood if face-to-face rather than texting. At least this is my opinion, and I stand by it. If you wish to LOL, you might enjoy it more by personal contact.

The younger crowd has embraced texting. For them it is fun to communicate online gossiping, flirting and texting peers. With all the predators out there, it would be beneficial for youth to assess risk, exercise care and learn some more about personal communication. It is not too late.

Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.