I’ll go ahead and admit what no one wants to: I used to be addicted to using my cell phone in the car. I would talk. I would text. I would check social media. I would even check bank accounts online. All those things you know are unsafe, the things you’d be horrified to announce you do on a regular basis, I did. My heart is in my throat as I type this, and I have tears welling up in my eyes because I can’t think about my it won’t happen to me attitude without realizing it’s only by the grace of God that I never hurt myself or anyone else. How could I have been so selfish?
Five years ago everything changed. I began a relationship with my now husband, and he simply asked me to stop using my phone in the car. Full stop. He’s an engineer, the kind of guy who can’t deny the data, and the data says cell phone use in the car is a horrible, horrible idea. It always has been, and it always will be.
I was in love with Soo-Young, and I knew he was right about my need to put the phone down. I committed to the change, but it was. not. easy. Love can make you do crazy things, but breaking a real habit doesn’t just happen because you have warm, fuzzy feelings for someone. Getting over my distracted driving addiction was a process, but it was one to which I committed, one to which I still commit daily, and one I beg others to take seriously.
Breaking the Addiction
I went public.
Multiple times, I announced over social media that I would no longer be using my phone in the car. These announcements were subtle at times, but they served as an accountability tool. How embarrassing to say no phone one day but be seen texting while driving the next!
I turned my phone off completely.
Why not just turn it on silent? Well, the addiction was too strong, and I couldn’t ignore the stupid screen. Red light taking a long time? Just glance to see if any texts came in. Long stretch of road that seems safe? What’s the harm in seeing if that Facebook post got any action? It’s a lot more difficult to check a phone that’s turned off completely than one simply silenced.
I put my phone in the back where I couldn’t reach it.
This wasn’t a long-term thing, but there had to be a detox of sorts. As much as I’d like to say I could just have the phone near me up front, there were times I had to resort to slinging it in the backseat because DANG IT — temptation is a crazy thing!
I allowed a couple of people who were close to me to ask questions.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find people who feel as strongly about ZERO talking/texting in the car, but I had a couple. I let them ask how things were going. I had to give honest answers, and, “Well, I had an important call I needed to take from the car,” wasn’t acceptable.
I quit making excuses and just did it.
Getting free of distracted driving quit being something I should do and became something I actively was doing.
A few days ago a Facebook memory from April, 2014 popped up, and here’s what it said:
“I used to text and drive. Then I got into a relationship with someone who asked me to please, please, please not do that. He even went so far as to ask me to leave the phone alone completely while I’m in the car. You know what? In the year+ that I’ve been phone-in-the-car-free, I’ve never once had someone act the least bit rude when I’ve said, ‘Sorry I’m just now calling/texting you back – I was driving.'”
It’s shocking for me to realize just how long ago I put my phone down. And spoiler alert . . . four years later, I still haven’t had anyone seem annoyed over my delayed response. What really gets me is how little time it took for driving without distraction to feel good and right and for doing anything with my phone to just feel wrong. It’s so awkward to fumble around with a screen or try to pay attention to a call when you’re driving. I mean, being behind the wheel is serious business, and it’s not the time to multitask.
What Driving Looks Like Now
Five years ago, if I was in the car, I was doing something on my phone. It was just a given. Now I choose my music, use my phone as GPS (that’s intentional), hang it on a caddy on the windshield, and just drive. You know what? It’s wonderful! My time in the car is relaxing, a break from the to-do list. I chat with my two-year-old. I listen to music. I think. It really is lovely, and I’m so thankful I’m not losing any more of this quality time to a cell phone.
After putting down my phone, I immediately became a better driver. I cut people off less. I missed fewer turns. I was suddenly patient with others on the road. You know what else? I began to see it — the thing the data points to over and over: distracted drivers are a danger. I have had several near-misses due to others with phones in their hands, but I’ve also had situations where I would have been in a horrible accident had I not been completely focused. Distracted driving is as much about an inability to react as anything, and that inability is the cause of countless accidents annually.
It’s Time to Act
It was not due to a distracted driving accident, but I have experienced tragic loss. The pain of losing my mother is something I would never wish on anyone, and the thought that I could be responsible for taking away someone else’s loved one keeps me away from my phone in the car. When I’m driving, I’m surrounded by people I will never meet, but each individual is someone’s mother, sister, best friend, father, brother, aunt, uncle, child. Then there’s the precious cargo in my own vehicle. Why would I buy car seats, ensure they’re properly installed, strap my kids in just so each time we leave the house, and then pick up my cell phone while driving? That makes no sense.
There are no excuses for distracted driving. The phone calls can wait. The texts can wait. Addresses can be entered in GPS when the car is parked. If it’s important, find a safe place to stop. I’ve been doing it for years, and you can, too.
End of story. It’s time.