Most people probably agree on the subject of texting and driving.
However, most people also think they will be the exception to the distracted driver dynamic. This dynamic is what happens when a driver’s attention is distracted causing the driver to lose focus and not interpret the surroundings accurately.
“Oh, I’m stopped at a stoplight. It’s no big deal to read a text.”
“I’m a careful driver. Just this once should be okay.”
“I’m on the interstate, and no one’s around me.”
Yep, there are lots of excuses that lead the cell phone into your hand when the steering wheel should be there instead. I’m guessing these sorts of excuses aren’t new. I bet people who drink and drive probably think some of the same things.
Problem with those thoughts (besides not being totally true) is they don’t take chaos into account. Chaos is that stuff that happens to throw everything else off. If you’ve seen Jurassic Park, you might be familiar with the chaos theory. It’s alive and well, and it takes the form of a squirrel darting out in front of you, a small child chasing down a stray ball, and the unpredictable snapping in your synapses (or lack thereof) because you’re unduly distracted by a text telling you your best friend just tweeted about your love life.
According to an article in the USA today and research done at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, a drunk driver has better reaction time than a distracted driver.
“Research at Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that reading or sending a text takes a driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds — long enough to cover the length of a football field at 55 mph. A 2009 study by Road and Driver magazine found that the reaction times of two drivers were faster when they were legally drunk then when reading or sending texts.”
I made a promise not too long ago.
I was sitting at a stoplight and wanted to check to see if my daughter had gotten home safely, so I reached for my phone, but then a thought crossed my mind. I thought that if in the next minute, someone were to careen into me and kill me that it would appear to investigators as if I was on my phone at the time of the accident. I didn’t want that question to hover in people’s minds. So I left the phone alone, the text unopened, and I drove on home. And I promised to NEVER check my phone for texts while I’m sitting behind the wheel.
I know it seems like a little thing, and it’s taken some effort to stay away from the “just this once” mentality. (I’ll just text this one time.) But I believe the roads will be safer with me keeping my eyes on them instead of my phone. Besides, texting and driving is illegal in 30+ states, and it’s just not worth the risk. It can wait.
So I want to challenge you to make the same promise. Put the phone away while you drive. Personally, I don’t even think the hands-free option is all that safe. And honestly, sometimes those few minutes in the car are all we get to have some peace and quiet and to disconnect. Take advantage of it. The distracted driver dynamic loses all of its momentum when the phone is turned off or tucked away in the back seat.
It can wait.