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Posted on Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 4 p.m.

Distracted driving: Motorists who text message while driving should lose their license

By Letters to the Editor

Read MLive Media Group's distracted driving series
• Editorial: Michigan needs to ban the use of hand-held phones while driving

The death of Corey McNett as reported in the news reminded me of the death of my grandson, Luke, which occurred 3 years ago.

Both boys were killed by distracted drivers; although there is no indication that the man who killed my 7-year-old twin grandson was text messaging while driving. But, he was distracted.

The accident was not my son’s fault. He was driving the speed limit - 25 mph in a residential area. All the family members in his vehicle were wearing seatbelts. The man who killed our child was driving more than twice the speed limit -- the police investigation listed his speed at about 55 mph. The driver felt ill but didn’t stop.


"Most of the responsible people I know cannot imagine anyone reading and/or writing text messages while driving a car! What are we thinking? If you have ever known a child who was killed by one of these irresponsible drivers, you will know the outrage of the survivors." - Margaret Bennett

The result is that we have a surviving identical twin brother, and devastated parents and siblings. We have grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and numerous friends, who will never completely recover from this unnecessary accident.

I recently worked with a woman named Shirley. She is up in her 80s and has never had a car accident or a ticket in all her years of driving -- all the many, many years since she was a young woman. Shirley attributes her perfect driving record to three important ways of driving: 1) she never listens to the radio while driving; 2) she never listens to music while driving; and, 3) she never talks to her passengers. When Shirley drives, she concentrates on her driving. She would never consider talking on a phone while driving.

As a grandmother who has had a few “fender benders” during my 50+ years of driving, I’m now following Shirley’s lead. I don’t listen to the radio -- except while waiting at traffic lights. (I’m finding that I don’t miss much on the radio, CD player, or tapes.) I enjoy the weather more and I am much more alert to potential problems on the road.

Most of the responsible people I know cannot imagine anyone reading and/or writing text messages while driving a car! What are we thinking? If you have ever known a child who was killed by one of these irresponsible drivers, you will know the outrage of the survivors.

People who read or write text messages while operating a car should lose their driver’s licenses -- 3 years for the first violation -- permanently for the second violation. It’s time we all started to show some common sense about being licensed to drive a car.

Margaret R. Bennett
Ann Arbor

P.S. Ele's Place -- a grief center for children -- helped Luke’s family immeasurably. I hope that Corey’s family and the friend, who observed the accident that killed him, will contact the caring people at this center and get some help.


Richard Wickboldt

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 10:54 p.m.

Some of the best cell phone coverage is along the major interstates and highways. The phone companies and their affiliates put cell phone coverage first on the road system. Years back the map of cell phone coverage marketed to us showed the coverage areas along the Interstate Highway System. They are the ones who are the root cause of the problem. They knew it would make driving dangerous. Yet for greed and profit they did it and got many people addicted to driving and cell phone usage. I say first outlaw cell phone coverage on the major highways. Put laws in effect requiring the cell phone companies to install technology preventing coverage on the highways, except for maybe Bluetooth connectivity. Then there is the individual person who either out of actual stupidity or ignorance just engage in this blatantly intuitive dangerous behavior. They should have heavy fines and loss of license permanently for repeat offenses. This stricter than DUI? Then change the DUI laws to equal.

Mike K

Tue, Feb 14, 2012 : 8:31 p.m.

I appreciate running this piece. I get incensed seeing young and old alike looking down at their gosh darn cell phone will going 70 mph. Our infatuation with "texting" is simply insane. DUI's cover a much, much smaller segment versus those with cell phones, and alcohol use is "selective" or "voluntary". The punishment should be more severe.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 10:34 p.m.

Why single out just one out of all the things that can distract people while driving? Is it because it's easier to target a behavior associated with "those darned kids" than to target things like eating, drinking coffee, putting on lipstick?

Ron Granger

Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 3:32 p.m.

I see the typical attitudes of entitlement in these comments, and lots of excuses justifying unsafe behavior. There will always be other sources of distraction, but that does not justify ignoring this serious problem. Phones will only get more distracting as their features grow, not less distracting. The complaints that this penalty is too severe suggest that the severity may be just what is needed. People often say "it was just an ACCIDENT". And even in cases where someone is killed, the punishment is often very minor. If you kill or injure someone while using a phone, the penalty must be very severe. The problem with monetary fines is that they do not change behavior for many. They pay the fine and move on. It has no teeth. It is "the cost of doing business, I am in a hurry, I have to go-go-go!" Losing your license is something you can't buy your way out of. It has teeth, and real impact. I like it.

monroe c

Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

I'm sorry for your loss. Your proposed solution, however, is not practial. Texting is already against the law. If drivers are already breaking the law by driving and texting, and they lose their license for it, they will also break the law by driving without a valid license.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 11:26 a.m.

@A2James I so totally disagree with you since I have been driving for 57 years with only one accident. A deer ran into my car on Platt Rd in the city of Ann Arbor last March! I take the senior driving course every 3 years through AARP. I am a safe driver! I do NOT drive and use my cell phone. It is safely in my purse and there it stays! Yes, I think texting needs to be banned as well as cell phone use as I observe drivers are very distracted. Personally I think cell phones are as dangerous as a DUI.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 10:53 a.m.

I fail to see the connection of this person's grandson, obviously tragic and obviously caused by another driver. I don't mean to be overly harsh but this is about a random connection as one can get to a marketing effort that feels good but won't accomplish anything really. I further don't believe the linkage we are being presented with nor is it being balanced with the good that comes from having a cell phone in the car and readily available: calling for directions or help. reporting erratic goes on and on. More legislation like this proposal doesn't lead to better driving. It takes better education, better technology and better enforcement. But gosh it sounds good to blame a accident caused by speeding and driver negligence on the random cell phone right?

Stuart Brown

Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 5:56 a.m.

The problem with removing driver's licenses for people caught texting is that it probably would not result in a change in behavior and would leave the original problem in place. This is a bad idea.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 12:54 a.m.

Your heart is in the right place; however there must be some balance in punishment. Texting while driving should be illegal of course, but the punishment would be more effective if it first hit the wallet for higher points and higher fines, then escalate. The goal is NOT to ban people from driving, it is to change behavior.


Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 11:58 p.m.

how about instead of coming up with legislation after legislation to limit what people can do while their driving (mainly things that are obviously dangerous to do while driving), we make it so that any idiot can't get a license. The current process to obtain the PRIVILEGE to drive is laughable. I find that the main problem isn't cell phones, or radios, or even safe places for pedestrians to cross the street. The main problem is an over-abundance of stupidity behind the wheel. let's cut off the head of the snake.


Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 11:23 p.m.

I'm sorry but if you don't want to accept that getting into a car comes with risks of getting into an accident then don't get into a car. Drivers get distracted for thousands of different reasons; one of them is texting (which, BTW, is illegal). People also regularly go over the speed limit. I'm sure you've never gone a few miles here or there over the posted speed? That's equally as dangerous. So for every speeding ticket should we take away those people's licenses as well? Fact is that most driving laws come with minor punishments unless you kill someone or seriously hurt them and that's just the way it is. If you don't want to take these risks, walk or ride a bike.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 4:43 a.m.

"If you don't want to take these risks, walk or ride a bike." ????? Testing while driving is especially dangerous for pedestrians and bicyclists. Please stay focused on your driving. Be careful out there. I walk 800 miles a year , and I've had a lot of near tragedies due to sloppy motorists.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 1:34 a.m.

Certainly the 9% increase in fatalities on urban interstates is equal to or more than the amount of deaths from texting each year.


Mon, Feb 13, 2012 : 1:32 a.m.

really...speeding is not dangerous? There are posted speeds for a reason, because going faster than that in that particular area is more of a risk for pedestrians, yourself and other vehicles. It impacts your reaction time, how fast you can stop and how much energy your car has when you crash. A study by researchers at the University of Illinois, Chicago has found that since the 1995 repeal of federally-mandated 55 MPH speed limits, there has been "a 3.2% increase in road fatalities attributable to the raised speed limits on all road types in the United States." Rural and urban interstates have seen particularly large increases in fatalities, at 9.1% and 4.0% respectively. The researchers recommend a return to nationwide 55 MPH speed limits in order to save lives.


Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 11:52 p.m.

Speeding is not dangerous.....especially not compared to texting.

Angry Moderate

Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 10:43 p.m.

So, you want to make the punishment for READING a text message while driving worse than a DUI. And your motivation for this is 2 crashes: one in which the driver was either "taking his truck out of four-wheel drive, grabbing a cigarette off his passenger's seat or glancing at his phone — he doesn't recall which", and the other in which your grandson was killed by someone driving more than double the speed limit and had nothing to do with cell phones at all.


Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 10:37 p.m.

I pass the location of this accident almost every day, and send up a thought to Luke's family and friends. I hope your pain eases a little each day.


Sun, Feb 12, 2012 : 9:48 p.m.

So, what you are proposing is a driving law that is stricter for cell phone use than the laws for first AND second DUI's. Well, that is laughable! The problem is, and never has been, cell is the drivers themselves who are the problems. This is akin to the people who want to ban guns everytime a criminal commits an act of violence with one. If phone use in cars was banned, then pople would just be distracted by other things, such as their radios and GPS systems (and some car entertainment systems rival smartphones with their power and complexity), be distracted by pedestrians and bicyclists who ignore proper road use laws, and be distracted by the over-proliferation of advertisements and signs on the roadways. Personally, I believe that every driver over the age of 60 should have restricted licenses and should take mandatory driving tests every year due to the steep decline in reflexes and road awareness in older individuals, but hey, its just an better or worse than any one else's...