SARA VANDEN BERGE

The first thing I do when I get into my car is strap on my seatbelt. Then I put the key in the ignition, start it up and get rolling.

On most occasions - before I even exit the parking lot - Iím dialing someone from my cell phone. It could be anyone - my kids (Where are you?), my friends (What are you doing?) or work (How is it going?)

The point is, I use my driving time to catch up on calls I donít seem to have time to make during the day - and itís only a matter of time before it gets me - or someone else - in trouble.

In this day and age most of us are experts in the ways of multi-tasking. We can cook dinner, help kids with homework, juggle the bills and somehow manage to get the lawn mowed almost simultaneously.

Itís what we do to survive.

But driving while using a cell phone could kill us. According to the journalís publisher, the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, cell phone distraction causes 2,600 deaths and 33,000 injuries in the U.S. each year.

And I can tell you that on more than one occasion, Iíve come close to becoming one of those statistics. And if youíre honest, I bet you have too.

The Texas legislature recently passed House Bill 55, prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones in active school zones and bus drivers from using cell phones while operating a bus with minors on board.

Just last week, the Stephenville City Council gave the green light to begin installing signs to alert drivers about the change in the law.

There have also been whispers among some city council members about taking the law one step further, restricting hand-held cell phones while driving within the city limits.

I hope they give it serious consideration.

In an unscientific test, I parked my car in front of a local business on Washington Street last week. Out of the 70 cars that whizzed passed me, 47 of the drivers were chatting with one hand on the steering wheel and another glued to their ear.

In other words, the vast majority of drivers arenít paying attention to what theyíre doing.

Banning hand-held cell phones and texting while driving is a good idea, and I hope the city council follows other municipalities that have passed similar measures.

Iíll admit that Iíll hate it. Iíll want to dial a number every time I hop in my car, but if I know that itís against the law and that I could be slapped with a hefty fine should I choose to chat, I wonít.

And who knows, it might just save my life - or yours.

SARA VANDEN BERGE is managing editor of the Empire-Tribune. She can be reached at 254-968-2379, ext. 240.