EDITOR’S COLUMN | Texting can, must wait until later

There’s a time and a place for everything, my mom used to say. Sadly, we can’t do everything all the time. Blackberry and crab seasons are in the summer, pinks only run every odd year, skiing is a winter sport, and fall through spring is when young minds spend their days at school. That means homework and early bedtimes.

Lame.

What followed was usually a reasoned and well-rehearsed speech about why I deserved to stay up a half-hour later than last year. I was older, I don’t fall asleep until that time anyway, blah, blah, blah. Everyone knows what I’m talking about. We all did it. Case in point, I heard the same lines from my 15-year-old last night. Now that I’m the recipient, however, I can’t help but wonder how my mom never broke out laughing during “negotiations.” I sure did.

“Bwahaha, yeah right. Go to bed!”

Anyway, Tuesday morning comes along and as I’m headed to work and the phone starts to buzz. I’m getting a text. Hmm. Do I take a peek? It might be important. The world could be coming to an end, or worse, it may be my wife saying I left my lunch on the countertop and that she’s planning to eat it herself.

I didn’t look, because it wasn’t that important. It never is. Texting, “Facebooking,” watching YouTube or playing Pokéman Go; whatever one’s particular cell phone weakness, none of it is worth some kid’s life — especially mine.

The Associated Press, a fine news organization by the way that won a Pulitzer prize this year for its “Seafood from Slaves” investigation — AP’s 52nd Pulitzer overall — recently published a story about how police are losing the battle to get drivers to put down their phones. Some departments have taken to extreme tactics, such as patrolling in a “tractor-trailer” to increase officers’ visibility, or having cops disguised as homeless people and covertly radioing-in offenders. In the latter case, the Bethesda, Maryland, department issued 56 tickets in two hours this past October, AP reported.

The statistics make it easy to understand why. About eight people die every day and 1,161 are injured in the U.S. in distraction-related crashes, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Offenders are not always teens. A 2013 AT&T study found that 49 percent of adults admitted to texting while driving even though they knew it was dangerous or illegal.

And it is against the law in Washington. The state’s “hands free” prohibition was signed into law in 2007, making us one of the first six states to ban texting while driving. We’re so responsible, in fact, that the issue appears to have all but disappeared here at home. According to the Island County Sheriff’s Office, deputies issued just five citations in 2015 for using a wireless device while driving and none so far this year.

Whew! Glad that’s not a problem anymore.

But just in case, let’s all take some of mom’s advice. Let’s show some responsibility, not just in putting our kids to bed at a reasonable time — 11 p.m. is not OK — but by setting an example by putting down our phones. The time for texting is not while operating a 2-ton vehicle.