Senior Writer

Take it from a texting coach, don't text while driving


It wasn't Kerry Keating's idea.

It was Oprah's idea.

But the Santa Clara coach was watching Oprah last January when the American icon filled her stage with people who have lost loved ones to somebody who was text messaging while driving, and the tragic tales stuck with Keating because he's a talker and texter himself. It didn't take much of an imagination for Keating -- one of the more technologically savvy figures in college basketball -- to envision a scenario where something similarly bad could happen to him or somebody like him. So Keating decided to be proactive in the movement to eliminate texting while driving. He posted a video on YouTube and created a Do Not Drive While Texting (DNDWT) campaign aimed at fellow coaches about to spend 20 of July's 31 days on the road recruiting.

"The thing I want to avoid is one of us ending up in an accident [during the July recruiting period]," Keating said. "Half the time you aren't even paying attention to what you're doing. You're just going from one gym to another."

There's no denying texting while driving is dangerous.

The statistics are mind-boggling.

What's worse is that the risk has been compounded recently by social networking sites available on iPhones and Blackberrys, and I know because I'm a guilty party. I routinely drive not only while texting, but also while scrolling Twitter. I've responded to Tweets while steering with my knees. I've never had an accident because of it, but that probably has more to do with luck than anything else. All it would take to ruin my life (and somebody else's life) is a boy in my neighborhood darting out in front of me while I'm looking down at my phone. I'd probably have no chance of stopping in time.

"And neither would he," Keating said. "I saw some of the public service videos when they first came out. They're nasty. You're literally taking your eyes and hands off the road and the wheel. It's really dangerous."

When Keating adopted this cause he organized a deal with Jawbone that allows coaches to purchase "ICON" headsets designed for hands-free texting for a notable discount in an attempt to add an incentive for more staffs to get on board. Coaches from UCLA, Mississippi State, Butler, George Mason, Murray State, Cal State-Northridge, Loyala-Marymount, Central Michigan and San Francisco have already committed. Keating would like to get that number into the hundreds before staffs begin traveling for an NCAA-sanctioned evaluation period that begins July 6.

"If guys don't make themselves aware of this issue beforehand, I'm almost willing to bet somebody will get into an accident," Keating said. "We'll never know if it came from texting. But I just wanted to be a little proactive about it."

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and frequent contributor to the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts the highest-rated sports talk radio show -- The Gary Parrish Show -- in the history of Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two children and a dog.

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