Texting: To Die For

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

Is text messaging the end of civilized English as we know it? When a 20-something emails you an acronym that reads RUOK and you can’t figure it out – are you outdated, old-fashioned or just plain old?

Do you even own an MFD (multi-function device)? One of those handheld things that rude people seem to have surgically attached to their wrists to constantly thumb text messages. Doesn’t matter where or when. Distracted in business meetings, dinner and even at funerals the text addicted can’t seem to stop wherever they are, especially behind the wheel.

There is nothing like the comfort of driving on the interstate and have a moron behind you pushing a giant SUV at 70 miles an hour, six inches off of your rear bumper. A glance in the rear view mirror shows him holding his MFD on top of the steering wheel thumbing away while you watch for deer to jump across the highway.

He’s probably sending a PM (personal message). Something important like HMOPZTN (honey, mushrooms on the pizza tonight). When the Pennsylvania Whitetail comes dashing across the highway the texter is likely to make you one of the 14 car crashes that, on average, take place in this state every hour.

In 2008 on Pennsylvania’s 121,000 miles of highway there were over 125,000 reportable crashes. More than one collision per mile that killed over 1,400 people and cost over $8 billion. Distracted drivers, like those using MFD’s, were 23 times as likely to cause a highway crash. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation drivers in the age group of 21 to 25 are the most dangerous. Over 50% of them are driving under the influence when they collide. Drunk driving while texting: a formula to die for.

Only 16 states ban texting or hand held cell phone use while driving. Pennsylvania isn’t one of them. It’s a classic Harrisburg P2C2E (process too complicated to explain). With all of the danger attached to it the legislature basically ignores the issue. Even the state’s own department of transportation is launching a traffic alert system that includes sending text messages.

As for the future of civilized English it’s probably SSEWBA. That means someday soon, everything will be acronyms.

Albert Paschall is Senior Fellow at the Lincoln Institute of Public Opinion Research, a non-profit educational foundation based in Harrisburg. He can be reached at [email protected]