Patrick Carpentier ran most of the 2008 season in the now-Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. He now is an advocate against texting and driving. Contributed by NASCAR

Former NASCAR driver is now focused on your driving … and texting

Auto racing has turned to advocacy for Canadian Patrick Carpentier. After a career that has spanned open-wheel racing and NASCAR, ovals and road courses, full-time and part-time driving, Carpentier is now an ambassador against distracted driving. In particular, Carpentier is a firebrand against teens texting behind the wheel. His 17-year old daughter is a big impetus for his taking up this cause.

“I’ve got to keep reminding her to stop doing that,” Carpentier said in an exclusive interview on the WSB Traffic Podcast. “It’s pretty bad, actually. It’s a habit that’s going to get worse and worse with the kids getting their licenses.”

Carpentier has fittingly partnered with CARSTAR collision shops to appear at different events for teens in Canada. Having won five times in the now-defunct open wheel CART Series and being extremely proficient in highly technical road racing, Carpentier knows how quickly conditions can change and how important reflexes are behind the wheel. “The best thing is to put (the mobile device) in the glovebox or turn it over and put it on silent. If you don’t see the screen, there is a lot less chance you’re going to use that phone.”

Carpentier said for teens, staying away from their phones is almost impossible. “I’m surprised they don’t have that nowadays, where when you sit in the car, the texting function is disabled automatically. I’m surprised the cellphone companies can’t get with the manufacturers to do that. So you still have access to your phone, for emergencies or something like that.”

Carpentier noted the benefits of hands-free technologies, like Bluetooth and infotainment systems, but he said that because texting is such a temptation, it’s still very lethal. This is the reason that Georgia’s new hands-free rules go very hard after that act and make enforcing the anti-texting law much easier.

Carpentier is Canadian and shared that even with very strict anti-distracted driving laws in place, Canada still sees a large texting and driving problem. “If your car is running, even parked, and you have your cell phone in your hand talking or texting on it, you will get a ticket.” Does Georgia’s new law seem so strict now?

But even with stern warnings and sound statistics, getting anyone, especially teens, to put down their phones is a tall order. “Kids don’t believe in it. They don’t care; they don’t think it’s a bad thing,” Carpentier said.”It’s actually something that you fight with awareness,” he said. “And actually, the stats show that texting while driving is getting worse as far as accidents; it’s actually more dangerous than if you’d be drinking.” That’s not to say at all that drinking is safe — this just shows how critically bad texting has become.

Now we have as good a reason as any to change our driving habits in Georgia: the new law. If we change our habits as adults, we will be far better examples for teens. That prospect is certainly worth keeping our mitts off the phones.

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