Is that text worth it?

It only takes a second.

Strange that one second – literally one second – can change your life, the lives and futures of those around you and even impact someone you might not even know. Life can truly be a game of chance.

The problem with games of chance is they are just that, a risk. When you take a split-second mistake and throw in the element of chance, sometimes, somewhere, someone is going to lose.

That’s what happened recently, when an area student made the decision to text and drive. It was probably a spur-of-the-moment decision, maybe it was a regular habit, what followed wasn’t a normal occurrence at all because in the few seconds that followed, a family lost a daughter, a sister, a friend. As sad as it was for her family and friends to feel her loss, there was a bright note because the person she hit, head-on and in the dark, was not killed when her texting caused her to cross the yellow line.

Teen drivers can be a hazard. Inexperience, combined with the myriad distractions on the road today, can make a bad situation that much worse. Maybe a young driver gets distracted, perhaps too many kids are in the car, it could be late or slick or just the bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet again, the end result is the same – a family, a community is left to mourn and wonder what might have been.

Since the first automobiles rolled off the assembly line there have been people who have made the mistake of underestimating the hazards associated with a moving piece of metal weighing thousands of pounds. There are those who were innocent, the victim of someone else’s mistakes. Perhaps it was simply bad luck. That’s the way it is sometimes with life, the way it always has been.

But that’s not entirely true, is it? As time has gone on, things have changed. A lot. I remember growing up in the 1960s rarely wearing a seat belt as I stood on the front seat of my mom’s Corvair. There were a lot less people on the road back then and a lot less distractions.

Jump to today and it’s amazing how many distractions there really can be. Not just texting, but Facebook, there’s Twitter, how about Instagram and Snap Chat? Young drivers today are part of a generation that doesn’t know what life is about without digital products or the Internet. They are part of a society where everything is immediate – who can post that status update first, we have to let so-and-so know where we are and what we’re doing.

The problem is when we do it and we’re driving, we may not be doing whatever it is we thought was so important for long.

It’s not just teens who decide to “multi-task” while they’re driving. Last week a North Carolina woman was killed after posting photos of herself driving and a status update to Facebook, talking about a song she liked. It was easy to see what happened – less than a minute after her last post, her car crossed the median and hit an oncoming truck.

She was 32 years old.

What can we do? How do we get our children, our friends’ children, our friends to stop this practice? How do we get off the treadmill ourselves? Why don’t we want to?

Oklahoma is one of only eight states in the country that doesn’t have legal restrictions on texting and driving (except for those in special circumstances, like bus and truck drivers and those holding a learner’s permit). Many times, bills have come before the Legislature to put something into place; every time, the ideas have stalled. Words like “individual freedoms” and “personal rights” always seem to become the focus of efforts that never make any headway.

I wonder how I would feel if my son’s “personal rights” mean he could text and kill someone else’s child. How about their “individual freedoms” allowing them to make the decision to update Facebook and put one of my friends in a wheelchair – or worse.

It’s time we start taking personal responsibility – for ourselves and for our children. We need to teach those around us that it’s not only not worth it to take that second and send a text or update Facebook – it simply is not right.

It’s time to take a second and make a difference. Stop playing that game of chance and commit to putting down the phone while we’re driving, encourage our representatives to take a stand and help those who will not make the right choice on their own to do the right thing.

There will always be car accidents and there will always be tragedies. We can make it so there are less of them, so our next status update or text is, “I made it here safe and sound.”