Anything that ever starts out with, “According to experts” or “A recent study revealed” usually makes me immediately suspect that somebody’s working an angle and to proceed with skepticism. But this one got my attention because it was conducted by the National Safety Council and Texas A&M: a whopping 26% of traffic accidents are caused by cell phone use but somewhat amazingly only 5% are caused by the driver texting. That means that one in five of all accidents are the result of someone ‘only’ talking on the phone. I believe it and not just because I missed an exit several years ago because I was texting. Think about that for a second. Missed an exit. That means I was in the wrong place by mistake because my attention was substantially and intentionally diverted. And I was in the wrong place operating a 2,800 pound machine while traveling at 70 miles per hour. Once I realized and really pondered the enormity of that, I’ve never texted while driving again and the continuing, rampant and heartbreaking examples of what can happen when you text and drive have turned me into somewhat of a zealot on the issue. If you have a teen or anyone in your life who ever texts or talks while driving, make an impact this week: show them this. As for the study finding that just talking on a cell phone (whether hands-free or not) causes a much larger percentage of crashes, while I find that mildly surprising, it also makes me wonder when in the world it became absolutely imperative that we be able to talk on the phone while we’re driving. Life in general has sped up a good deal in the last few decades thanks to cell phones, the internet and the explosion of available broadcast data. And the number of ‘imperative’ messages that we all exchange each day has increased substantially. But that super important thing that you need to tell so-and-so? It can wait. It really can. And most of all, it’s critical to not talk or text while driving if you’re in the midst of a deployment that’s the result of a business interruption, whether on the way there, on the way back or somewhere in between. Why risk making an already stressful situation even worse by unnecessarily and substantially increasing the odds that you’ll crash your car? Do this instead:
- Pull over to text or talk, and pulling over means WAY over . . . to a safe place in a parking lot or driveway or legally curbside on a quiet street, not on a feeder (or ‘access road’ if you’re from the northeast).
- Put it in park and turn off the engine.
- If you don’t think it’s a safe neighborhood or stretch of road, keep moving until you’re more comfortable. Either way, always keep aware of your surroundings when sitting in a parked car.
- Designate the conversation or exchange of messages to a copilot if one is available.
- My favorite: build time into your travel schedule ahead of time for regular check-ins and/or incorporate them into your stops for gas, to eat or to go to the bathroom.
I’ve pledged to commit to the tragedy of arriving safely home from the store not having received the message or call to not forget to pick up a quart of skim milk. And we practice what we preach at Continuity Housing: not only is it against company policy for any of our team members to talk or text while they’re traveling on company business but we also stipulate in our client contracts that we don’t allow our employees to do so. If it’s important enough to act on immediately – and often it is, especially during a deployment – it’s important enough to pull over. Our industry revolves around risk but intentionally engaging in distracted driving isn’t a risk worth taking. Ever.
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