The following is written by Covington reporter Rebecca Gourley:
We are all aware of the dangers of driving while we’re distracted.
So why do we continue to text, call and conduct personal hygiene while we’re behind the wheel of a deadly hunk of metal? Something happens in our brains that makes us pick up our device as soon as it chimes, indicating we’ve got a new message or someone has “liked” your selfie from earlier this morning.
Is it the need for instant gratification that our technology-based society yearns for? I think it goes deeper than that.
We all like being liked. It’s human nature. Technology has just hyperbolized this innate trait and deepened our desire to be liked. I don’t think any of us post something on social media without some kind of expectation that we’ll get at least one “like” out of it. And as soon as that first notification comes through, we have to see right away.
Well, unless your friend clicked “like” by mistake, that notification or text will still be there when you get off the road. I promise.
The weather is nice, so go take a walk. What you’ll notice is pretty incredible, in a scary kind of way.
As you stand on the corner of a busy intersection take note of how many drivers go by with their heads down and at least one of their hands holding their phone or a mascara comb. Take note of how long their eyes are off the road and how far they’ve traveled in that time. We know it happens all the time, but to actually see it and to see the damage it causes is something completely different.
According to the Centers for Disease Control’s motor vehicle safety webpage, there are three types of distracted driving – visual, manual and cognitive.
Texting or handling any type of device while driving checks all of those boxes. We’re staring down at our phones, we have at least one of our hands off the wheel (sometimes two), and our mind is focused on what we’re reading or thinking of a witty response, as opposed to the road. And this does not only apply to young drivers; adults do it, too.
In 2012, 3,328 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. That’s almost 80 percent of the entire population of Black Diamond. More than 3,000 people gone because of our inability to remove ourselves from our virtual lives or put down the makeup brush for more than a few minutes.
By the numbers, distracted driving is about a third less deadly than alcohol-impaired driving, according to the CDC. But, the fact that it’s less dangerous does not make it safe.
So what can be done?
We can increase fines for distracted driving or we can make more laws restricting mobile device use while driving, but those remedies address only the problem. They aren’t a real solution.
We need to start detaching ourselves from our devices, physically and mentally. We also need to wake up 10 minutes earlier so we can put our makeup on in the safety of our bathrooms.
Start at home, before you even place your fingertips on the door handle of your vehicle. Make a rule that all devices stay out of ear shot of the dinner table vicinity. Take a walk outside while the nice weather lasts and leave your phone at home. You don’t need it anyway.
Make a conscious effort to understand that what’s happening in cyberspace does not require your attention at this very moment.
When you do expand this practice to the inside of your car, you can take extra steps to decrease your chances of picking up your phone. Physical limitations include putting your phone in the backseat of the car or even in the trunk if you have really long arms.
You can also download an app that detects your speed and automatically puts your phone into drive mode, disabling your ability to use it. It also sends a text to people who message you that says something like, “Yo, I’m driving. I’ll get back atcha.” You can customize the message if that’s not your style.
But, whatever you do, don’t think that you can simply ignore your phone. The last thing you want to do is start an internal battle between your will power and your desire to be liked while you’re behind the wheel.
Checking your messages, seeing who has liked your valencia-filtered selfie, or putting on your face for the day are all things that are not worth someone’s life. You’re not invincible and neither is the person driving toward you in the other lane.