By Joyce King
I'm not a fan of the Jonas Brothers' music, but I am a fan of what they did Sunday and why they played in a softball game at a place I pass nearly every day — the Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, Texas, a suburb of Dallas.
To millions of teenage girls, the Jonas Brothers are talented, cute and will make softball more fun. To parents like me, who have a hard time getting through to their kids, the musicians' "X the TXT" campaign to raise awareness about the dangers of teen texting and driving is a godsend. Teens need to know that nearly 6,000 deaths a year are linked to distracted behavior. A National Safety Council study blames texting and talking on cellphones for 28% of the 1.4 million accidents annually.
Still, there is nothing like hearing this information from one of their own. Thousands of Jonas fans will get the chance to take an oath to not text and add their thumbprints to a traveling banner showcased on the national tour, which has hit about 25 cities, with three to go.
According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, adults drive and talk on their cellphones more than teens: 61% of adults compared with 43% of all 16- and 17-year-olds. This might explain the surge in new laws that restrict or ban the use of cellphones while driving.
Thirty states and Washington, D.C., have laws banning some form of text messaging for drivers of all ages. Eleven of these laws were enacted just this year. Federal legislation also has been proposed that would require states to collect crash data related to distracted driving in order to qualify for federal funds.
Every day when I hit the roads in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I encounter drivers of all ages with heads down or gadgets positioned on steering wheels. Not everyone has bought into the Bluetooth concept of hands-free talking. I've seen drivers who are talking or texting and nearly colliding with motorists — like me.
But I am sometimes guilty, too. As hard as I try to limit my cellphone use to "emergency only" calls, the temptation to answer when I hear my ringtone (the Rolling Stones' Beast of Burden) is almost too great to ignore. Parents need to set an example, but of the more than 2,200 Pew study participants, 47% of adults admit texting and driving compared with 34% of teens.
My 17-year-old and I may not listen to the same music, but we do have to drive the same roads. I'm glad the Jonas Brothers are reaching out to our kids. Now, if only someone would set us adults straight.