I’ll be the first to say it – a cellphone is a fabulous tool. It’s amazing to be connected to work, home, family and friends any time I need to be, or want to be. On the flip side, its rings and notifications can be insistent: answer me now. Because cellphone use by drivers can be dangerous and even fatal, I never use my phone when I’m behind the wheel, not even hands-free. It’s not worth the risk of being injured, dying in a crash, or taking another person’s life.
I have three children, including 17-year-old twins. They know what I do for a living but they’re teenagers. They don’t always listen, but they’re always watching. I’ve tried to be the best possible example of a safe driver from the time they were old enough to watch me behind the wheel. “Do as I say, not as I do” can have deadly consequences when it comes to talking or texting while driving. As a driver, I set a positive example for my passengers and for all the people around me. I don’t use my phone while driving, period. Like over 80 percent of people, I’m comfortable asking car or taxi drivers to stop distracted driving actions such as using a cellphone while I’m in their vehicle.
As a traffic safety professional, it would be easy to rattle off terms like “inattention blindness,” and explain that drivers using cellphones fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment. I could also mention that the activity in the area of the brain that processes moving images decreases by as much as one-third when listening to a phone.
I find it’s more effective to influence people by my actions. I have a distracted driving app installed on my phone that automatically notifies callers and texters that I won’t be answering right away because I’m driving. It saves me the step of turning my phone on and off, and it’s a compelling reminder to others that driving is a task that requires the driver’s full attention.
And sometimes, I just turn the phone off altogether.
I gained some unexpected benefits from powering down. The cellphone can be a taskmaster, ringing constantly until answered, beeping notifications of the latest news. Turning it off empowered me to take back my time, pay full attention to the people I’m with, and experience the world around me without distraction … both inside the car and in the outside world. I encourage you to try turning off your phone and seeing how it can enhance your life, too.