The last time you got behind the wheel of your car, were you guilty of talking on the cellphone, reading a text or even sending a text? How important was the last text you were eager to read or respond to? Most likely, it wasn’t important nor was it worth the risk of taking your eyes off the road for even a couple of seconds. Even though most drivers know the dangers behind texting and driving, many drivers have the “tragedy can’t happen to me” attitude. Drivers feel like they have become accustomed to driving with numerous distractions, such as music, calming fussy children, answering work related phone calls, and eating breakfast during morning rush hour. “Multi-tasking” drivers are less likely to abandon the distractions, especially if they have had an incident-free record. Even a “close call” is not enough to scare and stop a driver from eliminating distractions. So, how can you convince your son or daughter, spouse, and even yourself to put down the phone and focus on your driving?
“It Can Wait”…Really, it Can!
Ever since cellphone usage and texting became mainstream, cellphone users have become less able to put the phone down. Enter the age of smartphones and almost every user has the unconscious inability to ignore the alert signal of a new Facebook notification, an e-mail, phone call, or a text. Without thinking, we are trained to respond quickly. Cellphones, in a way, have become quite “Pavlovian”. Many drivers can recall a time when cellphones were only a novelty for rich guys who worked on Wall Street. We, on the other hand, ventured out on the road, hoping that our cars wouldn’t break down and if they did, we survived. If we had phone calls waiting, they were either taken in person from a family member or roommate via a landline or we returned home to find a blinking light on our answering machines. Cellphones are great for many reasons, but especially helpful if we are running late for a dinner date or resolving a work issue once we’re out of the office. Before cellphones, we just showed up late to dinner (and still had a good time) or took care of the work “crisis” the following day. Point is, we were just fine before cellphones became available to almost anyone who needed or wanted one. So, how do we attempt to resolve the dangerous problem of the distracted driver?
The “It Can Wait” campaign offers drivers, young and old, to pledge to be safer drivers, promising to put down the phone and drive. It only takes a couple of seconds for a situation on the road to go from normal to worse. Celebrities, professional athletes, and even “everyday” people who were personally affected by a texting and driving incident have made the pledge (and the plea) to stop texting and driving. Sure, the campaign is geared towards the younger, more inexperienced teen driver, but every driver of any age should consider talking the pledge. No text is worth a near miss on the roadways, an accident that leaves you paralyzed, or worse, a fatal crash.
Texting, Driving and the Innocent Victims
In October of 2010, when Xzavier Davis-Bilbo was just 5 years old, he was struck by a young woman who was texting and driving. Xzavier, a young boy with the dream of becoming a football player, was crossing the street by his home. The accident left him paralyzed from the diaphragm down. He will never be able to live out his dream and he may never get the chance to get behind the wheel of a car when he’s old enough. The young woman was texting, “I’m on my way”, when she blew through the stop sign, striking the young boy and dragging him a couple of feet down the street. Xzavier is lucky to be alive, but his life is forever changed. In addition to his paralysis, he suffers other health ailments and has a daily (and expensive) health regimen that requires approximately 16 hours a day of nursing staff. “I’m on my way”, do those words seem important enough to risk the life of an innocent child?
Xzavier is just one of many who are affected by a distracted driver each day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each day more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in incidents involving a distracted driver. Granted that not every distracted driver is texting and driving, but the statistics, alone, are startling and should encourage drivers to change the way they drive.
Keep Your Eyes and Mind on the Road and Your Hands on the Wheel
It can’t be stressed enough how dangerous it is to drive while distracted. Not only is driving while texting a recipe for disaster, but it’s illegal in 41 states. If you are caught texting and driving and are given a fine, consider yourself lucky. That traffic violation prevented you from making a careless mistake that can’t be fixed. If you have the dangerous habit of texting while driving, change your habit. Turn your phone off and let all calls go to voicemail. Tell people, who text you a lot, that you are trying to take a break. If all else fails, put your phone out of reach. If you must make a call or answer a text, pull over safely and take care of it then. Stopping at an intersection, sign or stoplight is not the time to text. Even if your car is stopped, your attention is still vital.
If you change just one thing about the way you drive, choose to eliminate your distractions and pledge to stop texting and driving. Would you rather respond to a text from a friend and risk having a life changing accident or would you rather arrive alive?