Sunday, April 5, 2009

Driving Under the Influence

The tech influence, that is.

In the past month, I've had two experiences of nearly being in a serious motor vehicle accident. During the first one, I was stopped at a red light, waiting behind several cars when I noticed a Jeep in my rear-view mirror coming up behind me over a hill. It was traveling fast, and as it came closer and closer, its speed was not decreasing. I looked for a way to move my car out of harm's way, but had nowhere I could go. So I decided to pump my brakes and hit my hazard lights, then braced myself for a hard hit. At the last minute, the driver of the Jeep slammed on his brakes and came to a squealing stop beside me. I look over and the driver, get this, is still looking down at his phone and texting even though he barely missed hitting me! I decided a choice gesture was in place so I yelled at him that he was "number one" and then drove away, my heart still thumping in my chest from what just happened.

Then this past week, as I was driving on the interstate, a white car nearly sideswiped me when she swerved in her lane. She straightened herself in her lane and then proceeded to continue with the texting she was doing. As I drove further ahead of her, I could still see her swerving in the middle lane as if she was driving while drunk.

Is it any different?

Distracted drivers account for the majority of motor vehicle crashes according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and that's not hard to believe. We're all guilty of getting behind the wheel and not giving our full attention to the road as we're driving. We're talking on the phone, checking emails on our PDAs, twittering, texting... in between turning around to make sure the kids aren't killing each other, trying to grab the binky that's just dropped to the floorboard, or distributing french fries as you pull out of the McDonald's drive-thru. (Okay, maybe that's just me.)

When we're busy doing all these things rather than the one thing we should be doing - watching the road - catastrophe is bound to happen. How can we forget the young girls who were all killed in an accident believed to be caused by text-messaging? So far, most of us have been fortunate enough to not become one of the the NHTSA's statistics, but with our continuing practice of distracted driving we might not continue to be so lucky.

Nor will the precious children we have buckled up in the backseat.

So, be real with yourself. Does this sound like you? Are you driving under the influence of all of your devices?

Maybe it's time to change your ways. Yes, your Twitter Tweeps may not know what you're doing at the moment, your Facebook Friends won't know your current status, and your emails will be sitting in your inbox unread, but trust me when I say you won't be missing that much if you just put down your iPhone or Blackberry and put your attention back on the road. If you choose instead to take that risk, you might end up missing out on so much more.

Is that a risk you're willing to take?

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