Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Driving While In-TEXT-icated

The poster in the school hallway warns: “Don’t Drive While In-text-icated.”

I change lanes or speed up or slow down to put distance between my car and a young driver on a cell phone. It’s tough enough for adults with fully developed brains to talk and drive. Kids on phones? They scare me.

But it never occurred to me that teen drivers would send text messages while driving, until I saw that poster.

I asked 15-year-old Jacquelyn if she knows kids who text messages behind the wheel. “Of course they do,” she said.

I thought of Dr. Brian Johnson’s comments in Words Can Work: When Talking About Alcohol. He urges parents to help their kids choose to not drink and drive. One way is by explaining that driving is a complex task.

"You have to be aware of your front and side and rear view mirrors, where your car is in relation to others, the brakes, the accelerator, and how fast you’re going,” Dr. Johnson says. “This is a lot for adults who have driven all their lives. It’s especially hard for young people, with not much driving experience.”

Driving requires concentration. I had my first accident at age 16, when a new song by Oliver came on the radio. It was “Jean, Jean, Your Young and Alive.” As I turned up the volume, I looked away from the road for a few seconds. In that moment, I crashed into the side of a car going through the intersection.

The radio is the least of many distractions tempting drivers today.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration studied one hundred adult drivers for a year. Researchers found this: 80 percent of 82 crashes, and 65 percent of 761 near-crashes, happened when drivers were distracted – mostly by cell phones and PDAs.

When an inexperienced teen driver whose brain is still developing sends text messages while behind the wheel, I bet the numbers are worse.

Remind your kids that driving is a complex task. It requires their complete attention.

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linka1 said...

I foolly believe text messaging should be not a option when driving.

July 30, 2007 7:01 PM


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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Treating the Invisible Pain

At Virginia Tech, some knew that Cho Seung-Hui was a troubled young man, but their hands were tied: legally there was nothing they could do because of issues and privacy and rights.

As the horror at Virginia Tech was unfolding, I was writing a story for our booklet Words Can Work: When Talking About Mental Health. It‘s the story of Chris, a young man who suffers from a mood disorder that, as he says, is a on the spectrum between bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

Chris had his first psychotic episode at a large university. Leading up to his break from reality, his behavior worried his family. The school faculty – aware that he was having problems - was unwilling to have any open communication with the family about Chris.

“Meet him at his apartment and call 911,” a member of the school’s mental health services told Chris’ mother Eileen.

A friend of Eileen’s told her that when the police arrive, she should tell them that Chris would hurt himself or someone else if he’s not admitted to the hospital. That’s the only way a hospital will admit a patient against his will, she explained.

Eileen heeded the advice. It was the first step toward getting her son the help that he needed – and likely saving his life.

In high schools and colleges across the country there are young adults desperate for help.

The Virginia Tech tragedy is provoking a necessary national dialogue about mental health. Dr. David Hayes, a clinical psychologist with Louisiana State University's Mental Health Service, says what happened at Virginia is like 9/11 for universities. There will be debate about people’s rights vs. the public’s safety. But policy and laws will change and thousands will get the help they need.

Depression: True Stories
Words Can Work: When Talking About Mental Health

Related Issues and Answers columns
Bi-polar disorder
Coping with stress

Related columns for young people


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