Here’s a sobering statistic: At 55 miles per hour, a car travels the length of a football field in a little less than 5 seconds. That’s also the same time it takes to read a text message, according to government statistics.

You know where this is going. That’s like driving blind for nearly 5 seconds at high speed. The U.S. Department of Transportation reports cell phone use was a factor in 18 percent of distraction-related fatalities.

And yet, that’s what too many of us are doing when we get behind the wheel, despite laws banning drivers from texting.

The message isn’t getting through, perhaps because almost no one gets caught.

In Indiana, a police officer has to see you text and drive, which is almost impossible to determine. That driver holding a cell phone might be dialing it, checking a map or playing a song. But if you are caught, the fine can be $500.

So the law as it’s written now is nearly useless, and the number of people ignoring it, especially teens, is downright scary.

A survey conducted by State Farm Harris Interactive found only 43 percent of drivers ages 16-17 say they have never texted while driving.

Is it any wonder that whenever an accident occurs, investigators must determine whether a cell phone was in use? That’s not to pick on young drivers. Adults are guilty, too.

What can be done?

A public relations and education campaigns stressing the dangers of driving while distracted could help, especially if it’s modeled after the campaigns of the 1990s that called attention of driving while impaired. So-called “top of mind” campaigns make people aware of the issues and get them to talk about them. Such a campaign must stress that if you cause an accident, you can be held liable — and expect to be held accountable for your actions.

The current law is ineffective and practically unenforceable. Perhaps a better approach would be to punish drivers more severely for distracted driving, whether the cause is cellphone use or other actions taken by the driver. That will prove challenging.

Finally, technology that provided us with these distractions might also solve the problem. A company called Cellcontrol of Baton Rouge, La., is developing technology to have cellphones receive vehicle operating data via a non-paired Bluetooth signal. The device can automatically block texting, emailing and phone usage except in emergencies. The company also makes apps to allow parents to monitor phone use of teens when they drive.

In the meantime, until technology provides a solution, exercise some personal restraint and responsibility: Don’t text and drive.

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