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Student Life

Stay Alive. Don’t Text and Drive.

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TAMPA, Fla.–Many University of South Florida students believe a successfully passed bill banning texting and driving will not deter them from doing so, and some psychologists believe this mentality is due to the ways of thinking in young adults.

Samuel Wang, a junior advertising major at USF, sends and receives text messages whenever he can while driving.

“I think I do it because of the convenience factor. Today’s cell phones can do pretty much anything,” says Wang.

Aside from the Florida Legislature’s continuing attempts to ban texting while driving, there still exists the danger of causing a car accident that could take the life of the driver or the lives of innocent victims.

According to the Edgar Snyder and Associates law firm, cell phone use while driving contributed to 16 percent of fatal car accidents involving drivers who are 20 years old and younger in 2009. So why do college students continue to text message while behind the wheel?

In an April 27, 2011, e-mail interview with Dr. Ron Lennon, assistant professor of marketing in the College of Business at USF’s Sarasota-Manatee campus, he stated, “College students think they can do it all.”

Jason Funes, a biomedical sciences major and former student body presidential candidate at USF, believes it all depends on the driver’s hand-eye coordination.

“I text when I drive because I feel I have better hand-eye coordination than most normal people. It doesn’t divert too much of my attention away from driving,” says Funes.

Dr. Judith Bryant, a cognition specialist in USF’s Department of Psychology, believes this mentality occurs in college-aged adults because the portion of the brain that deals with reasoning is not completely developed.

“The prefrontal cortex is not completely mature. Young adults often pay more attention to immediate situations and desires rather than long-term consequences. They also believe, falsely, that they are good at multitasking and divided attention even though that’s not the case,” says Dr. Bryant.

Eric Brotherton, a senior psychology major at USF, blames the trend of texting while driving on the combination of society feeling the need to be socially accepted and the easily accessible technological advances on the market today.

Christina Rodriguez, a junior business major at USF, says she has tried to quit texting while driving, but thinks it’s too difficult.

“I like staying connected. I have to know what’s going on right now; I can’t wait,” says Rodriguez.

A 2010 study conducted by Dr. Lennon, entitled “Social Marketing and Distracted Driving Behaviors Among Young Adults: The Effectiveness of Fear Appeals,” exposed 840 students from universities throughout Florida to graphic videos depicting car accidents that involved texting and driving. Dr. Lennon found that after watching the videos, the number of students who admitted they would text and drive increased by 3 percent.

To explain his study further, in the April 27 interview, Dr. Lennon said, “There is something called the ‘boomerang’ effect. In simple terms, it means that if you show me something I don’t want to believe, I will do it more than I did before.” He also stated, “Multitasking is rampant with college students and they feel they are invincible.”

Megan Dunkle, a former political science major at Stetson University, believes, like many young adults, that she is a good multi-tasker when it comes to driving.

“I send text messages a lot while I’m driving and I have never had a problem with it. I know it isn’t safe, but if you know what you’re doing and you’re careful, then I don’t really see it as a problem,” says Dunkle.

In regards to the legality of the issue, Corporal Edward Raburn of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Department says, “Law enforcement may not stop a driver whom they notice to be sending or reading a text message, unless some other moving or non-moving violation is observed.”

Because there is no statute against texting and driving, the USF Police Department is also currently unable to pull over a student committing this act.

USF’s Sergeant Charlotte Domingo advises against sending and receiving texts while operating a vehicle because of how dangerous it is.

“USF hasn’t had any incidents where we could specifically identify that someone was texting and driving in a crash on campus, but I have certainly seen that in my travels as a private citizen in my personal vehicle. I’ve nearly been hit head-on by someone who was obviously texting while they were driving,” says Sgt. Domingo.

According to an October 2009 study performed by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, approximately 94 percent of drivers who text message or talk while behind the wheel of a vehicle acknowledge they are more likely to be involved in a car accident. However, their survey found that only 46 percent of drivers support a law banning the act.

Despite the large number of college students who text while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, some are in support of a ban.

Stephanie Brown, a senior education major at Pasco-Hernando Community College, says, “I text and drive, but I think it would be a good thing if a bill was passed to ban it. I’m not sure how effective it would be, though. It may even be a waste of time for police officers to pull texters over.”

Though many law enforcement officers do not foresee a Florida bill banning the use of a cell phone while driving being passed anytime soon, there are currently two bills in committee proposing such a ban.

*Separate audio file e-mailed to professor Garcia*


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