I usually blog about intimate relationships – sharing frank and honest thoughts on relationships for people looking to create more for themselves than the cookie-cutter romance. But in a break from my usual themes, I’m going to blog today about a different type of intimate relationship– the intimate relationship that we have with our fellow man: the person that we don’t know, but whose life we can change, and who has the power to change our life in a fraction of a second. My focus today is on us, as drivers.
I am writing this blog as a message and reminder to myself first. While I have not been in an accident yet (thank God), I understand that intersecting circumstances with another who has been as careless or preoccupied as I have been would have resulted in disaster.
We share an intense responsibility as drivers. Every second counts while you are handling the dangerous piece of machinery known as a car. It can be a tool that kills someone. It can be the tool that changes the beautiful structure, make-up, and chemistry of some family that you may or may not know. We all must deal with the fact that carelessness– our own or someone else’s — can devastate us and our family.
Because of this intense mutual responsibility, we must hold each other accountable, like in any intimate relationship. Do you kiss your partner while texting? Do you talk on the phone while sharing an intimate moment with your lover? Would you tune your radio while attending to the needs of your child? Because the stakes are life-and-death, the same single-minded attention must be applied to driving.
My undiluted message today is this: Please do only one thing when you are driving. Please just drive. Do not figure out how to tune your radio. Don’t look at your child(ren) in the back seat. Do not adjust your iPod. Do not dial your phone. Do not eat anything that may spill. Do not hold your phone. Do not read a map. Do not dig in your glove compartment. Do not text. Do not do anything that takes away the important attention that I, you, and our environment need when driving. Each of us need this focus in order to avoid car accidents, which may injure or kill you, a passenger in your car or another car, a bystander, or another driver.
Consider the times that you almost rear-ended the car in front of you when you were doing something that took your attention away from driving. Imagine that the bumper on the car in front of yours is a small child. Or imagine that that driver is not you but is someone who is similar to you, and that that child was your daughter/son.
Sometimes life happens when we are driving, but there are safe ways to handle a ringing phone, a crying child, or a cup of hot coffee. If you must do something while on the road, do it once you have stopped the car – at a red light, at a “Stop” sign, or simply pull to the side of the road. Also, if you are a passenger, openly and willingly offer the driver of a car any service that may assist them with concentrating.
A friend recently recounted this story to me:
I was recently stopped at a red light. My daughter was in the car, and my cell phone rang. At the same time the light for the oncoming traffic’s left turn lane turned green. Instinctively, by way of paying attention to the fact that the cars coming in the opposite direction were cleared to drive on a green light, so I thought that I was, I proceeded into the intersection. I had not explicitly looked at my own light, which was still red. Horns blew and the experience scared the heck out of me. It scared me so bad (which was visible by way of my facial expression) that the police officer at the intersection looked at me, shook her head, and left me alone. I was not pleased with my circumstance.
And he consciously cares about his actions. So do you. Here we have at least two relatively careful parties skirting danger with no intent to harm anyone. There is no arguing that we are using less of our attention than is available to us when we drive and do anything else at the same time. If this is the case for two caring people, consider all the individuals that we see around us, on our roads. That puts danger coming from quite a few angles and every direction of our world: me, you, and them.
Adding to the risk is the “culture of distraction” we all live in and promote with our cell phones, blackberries and iPods. There were certainly no shortages of car accidents before the prominence of cell phones. Now that nearly everyone has one, the danger of your distraction and that of the on-coming car has significantly increased. Respect that danger, and do your part. Let’s change this culture of distraction that seems to be growing. Let’s teach our children, through our actions, the “cell phone habits” that we want them to use when they are 18 years old and driving around the city.
Some statistics really drive home the danger:
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 4 out of every 5 accidents (80%) are attributed to distracted drivers. In contrast, drunk drivers account for roughly 1 out of 3 (33%) of all accidents nationally.
Texting while driving is about 6 times more likely to result in an accident than driving while intoxicated, according to the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
A study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Motorists found that motorists who use cell phones while driving are four times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.
Using a cell phone while driving, whether it’s hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent. (Source: University of Utah)
The take-home message is this: “Please, do not multi-task when driving.” Every second on the road deserves your undivided attention.
Our concentration may not only save our life but someone else’s. We may even find ourselves in the position to make up for someone else’s carelessness while they are multi-tasking and driving. If we do not speak to each other about this important dynamic which could be characterized as “a group of people distracted at the same time,” on one of our “off” days we could end up seriously harming someone or getting harmed.
Finally, please consider adding a sentence or a message from this blog (Suggestion: “Please, do not multi-task when driving.”) and the link to this blog to the footer of your emails, to encourage responsible behavior. It may save someone’s life, and that is one of the most intimate things you can do for another person.