A few decades ago, most people thought it was OK to drive after having a couple of beers. As long as they didn't cause accidents, inebriated drivers typically paid a small fine. Only repeat offenders lost their licenses.

That all changed when statistics began proving that drunk drivers are much more likely to cause a fatal accident than sober drivers. Today, penalties are steep. If you drive when you're inebriated, it's easy to lose your license and repeat offenders can end up in jail.

Today, most people think it's OK to text while driving. However, it turns out that texting while driving is as bad or worse than driving while drunk. Here are the facts:

I know from my own experience how dangerous this behavior can be. Last year, a kid who I'm almost 100% certain was texting slammed into the back of my car so hard that it bent the frame.

Since that accident, I've had recurring headaches and neck aches, especially while working at the computer. Sometimes the pain keeps me awake at night. I still wonder what could possibly have been so important to that kid that it was worth causing me so much grief.

As bad as that is, it's trivial compared to what happened to the husband of a colleague of mine. When he was rear-ended by a texting driver, the impact threw his car forward, killing two people walking on the nearby sidewalk.

Why was that driver texting? To explain to her boss why she was late to work.

Was that really worth the death of two people? Was that really worth the trauma my colleague's husband must feel after helplessly watching and feeling his car crush two people to death?

A friend who has an office overlooking the main drag in a nearby city told me that he now hears at least one rear-ending every day. "This is new," he said. "It used to be a once-a-month thing."

What we're dealing with is an epidemic of self-centered stupidity. Maybe it's time we treated texting while driving the same way we treat drunk driving--as a serious crime that greatly endangers the life and health of other people. Here's my take:

  1. First offense: automatic 1 year suspension of driver's license.
  2. Second offense: a steep fine scaled to the driver's net worth (like in Finland).
  3. Third offense: mandatory jail time.

I don't care how important these drivers think they are. They've got no right to put other people's lives and health at risk just because they're too lazy to pull off the road before reading and answering their texts.