RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
And we wrap up our coverage from the campaign trail, with a reporter's notebook from NPR's auto industry reporter Sonari Glinton. Now, Sonari knows - as well as anyone - the risks of texting and reading email behind the wheel. But he recently found himself doing exactly that.
SONARI GLINTON, BYLINE: During the recent presidential campaign, I was on the road a lot; mainly, driving on rural road in places like Iowa, Indiana, and Ohio - of course, Ohio. And while I was driving, on several occasions, I checked my email. Now, I mainly report on cars and I really, really should know better.
CARROLL LACHNIT: You're not the only the one.
GLINTON: Carroll Lachnit is with Edmunds.com. She's one of two people I talked to about texting and driving.
LACHNIT: It's really a problem. I mean, I'm loathe to say it's an epidemic because that sounds so strong. But when you have a phone in the car, the temptation to use it is - can be pretty overwhelming.
GLINTON: Lachnit says the car companies are trying to keep our hands on the wheels. Some have put voice-activated software to read text messages or emails. But they're a long way off from perfecting that technology. She says until then, we have to make each other stop.
LACHNIT: We have to start shaming each other more, I guess. I don't know what else is going to work. I mean, I give people the stink eye all the time, if I see them holding their cellphone while they're in the car. The problem is, they're not looking at me. (LAUGHTER) They're looking at their damn cellphone.
GLINTON: Daniel McGehee studies distracted driving, at the University of Iowa. He says many of us delude ourselves by thinking, oh, if I only check my texts while I'm at the stoplight. But he says there is really no good time to text or email, while the car is in gear.
DANIEL MCGEHEE: We are seeing that people respond to text messages while they're stopped. But they may peek at those messages while they're driving. But really, the more intense distraction, sometimes, is while you are stopped.
GLINTON: McGehee says we can wait for car companies, and cell companies, to come up with solutions. But the most potent way to make the roads safer is to change our behavior.
MCGEHEE: There's been a couple of cases where, you know, reporters have crashed. And it's pretty easy to reconstruct when you've been on the phone; how many text messages - are, and even what you were texting.
GLINTON: Yeah, and like - yeah. I mean, when you said that, that just - literally, like, sent the - (LAUGHTER) - a chill through me, you know? Wow.
MCGEHEE: And if you take a look at the kinds of things that are going back and forth, they're really so unimportant. Is this really that important - to be able to send this string of messages back and forth, for the last 45 seconds of your life?
Until now, we've paid a lot of lip service to not texting and driving. But both experts say our culture needs to change. We need to make texting or emailing, and driving, as unacceptable as drinking and driving. Sonari Glinton, NPR News.
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