When I first began driving, I was 20 years old. Yes, I waited that long, but this isn’t important. It was 2006, and I still had a flip phone. Most people did. Smartphones didn’t exist, and most of us (unless you owned a fancy Sidekick) had to press buttons multiple times to get the letter or punctuation we wanted. Mess up? That sucks. Start over. It became really easy for habitual texters to text without looking. All we had to do was feel around for the right key, hit it the correct number of times we’d already memorized, take a quick glance to make sure it was correct, and hit “send”.
But because texting was such a thumb workout, we still made actual phone calls to our friends. Also, not all of us had unlimited text messaging, and those overage charges were steep.
We heard all kinds of warnings about texting while driving, but it really didn’t seem like a big deal. I mean, I was careful, and I barely even had to look at my phone to do it. And I didn’t even do it that much compared to most of my friends (although my parents will read this and be mad at me forever).
All that changed with the smartphone. Now, our primary communication relies on texting, our many social media networks are sending notifications to our phone (giving us the impulse to check it and respond right NOW), and we’re using our phones for GPS during our commute. There are all kinds of reasons to reach for your phone while you’re behind the wheel, and a large majority of us are guilty of it at some point in time, despite the recent laws prohibiting it in some areas.
How many times have you seen a horrible driver who had their phone in their hand and thought, “that guy can’t do two things at once”? Did you conclude you’re better at multitasking than that idiot?
You’re distracted, taking your eyes away for what seems like a split second, and you’re unprepared for something to go wrong.
Let me put it to you this way: Do you really want to injure someone, yourself, or even just mess up your car because you NEEDED to check your email?
Trust me, I know, it’s really hard to resist. But there are a few things you can do to protect yourself, the people in and outside of your car, and even your car itself.
I’m challenging you. Try it for a week and see how it goes.
Dock your phone.
Simple phone holders aren’t terribly expensive. I use this one. If your phone isn’t in your lap, you’ll be less likely to interact with it. Before you put your car in drive, put it on its charger, on a dock, closer to your dashboard. You’ll still be able to watch your GPS, and even make simple music changes without looking down, and the temptation to text isn’t nearly as strong. I tried leaving my phone in my purse, but I inevitably ended up digging it out halfway through my drive home.
Turn off notifications.
When we hear that little ding from our phone, we immediately feel the need to respond. Take at least some, if not all, of them away. I don’t have notifications turned on for my email, Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook. I’ll check all of them when I have time to, but I don’t need every “like” to interrupt what I’m doing — especially driving.
Send your texts before you leave.
When you’re sitting in your car, before you put your car in drive, send whatever texts you need to. Send your “on my way” text now with an ETA. Double check your directions and traffic reports. Check your social media now so it’s not bugging you the whole ride home.
Find some entertainment.
On those long, traffic-heavy drives home (ATL traffic, anyone?) it’s very tempting to catch up and check social media. Instead, come prepared. Have some good music, an audiobook, or some podcasts ready to go. Make them easily accessible and queued up so you’re safer when you need to change it.
Get a bluetooth device.
Most cars come with bluetooth now, but if yours didn’t, get yourself a headset. This way you can still make and receive important phone calls. And these days, if someone’s actually calling you, something might be wrong.
Think of your priorities.
You just got a text. Do you really need to answer it? If it’s not worth pulling over, then it can wait until you get to your destination. Your safety is more important.
Don’t be afraid to pull over if you think you need to answer something now. It may add a second to your drive, but it’s worth it.
Since committing to NO texting while driving, my drives feel free. It’s some time away, to jam out to my favorite music, and I am fully focused on what’s in front of me. I encourage everyone to keep the hands off their phone and keep their priorities straight.
Will you commit to it for a week?