By Sheryl Kraft
Okay, I'll admit it. I'm guilty. Well, sort of. I don't exactly text while driving, but I do keep my cell phone within easy reach and each time it notifies me that a new email has landed in my inbox, I'm tempted to take a quick peek. It's just hard to resist, even though I know that it can always wait.
And I do talk on my phone while driving. Although I use hands-free – always – I now realize that it doesn't matter all that much. Last month when hubby was in the hospital and I was driving back and forth every day, the stress and sheer day-in-day-out routine made me reach out to friends. I needed them, just to talk to. Seemed harmless enough until, one night, I took a wrong turn. Actually, I didn't take the turn necessary, and wound up on a totally unfamiliar highway in a totally unfamiliar (not-too-safe) area. I was shocked – I knew this route inside and out and had driven it a million times before. Aha, I silently scolded myself - after telling my friend "I have to go!" - that's what is meant by "distracted driving."
Lucky for me, I pulled over when I could and pleaded with my GPS to deliver me home safely. And it did. After that incident, I think twice before calling someone while I'm driving, unless it's an absolute emergency or I know the call will take only a few seconds.
In case you missed it, our executive director Elizabeth Cahill posted about this just last week.
Oprah is campaigning to eliminate distracted driving. When I checked out her website, I was terrified to read this: "Nearly 500,000 people are injured and 6,000 are killed each year because drivers are talking, texting and e-mailing behind the wheel." I'm horrified to hear stories – and see it myself – of people actually emailing while driving. I can always tell who is talking on their phone or texting just by the way another car is moving (slowly or erratically).
So, it might not be you – but another person who causes an innocent person harm because they're not paying attention. They're instead doing something they think is benign but carries so much potential or irreversible harm to others.
Please join me in taking a pledge that you will not text or talk while driving. One thing that helps me is to silence my phone so it doesn't create the Pavlov-type response in me to grab it and look each a new email or phone call comes in. Maybe that's not good enough for some; how about tucking your phone away in the glove compartment instead?
I've found that disconnecting from the outside world actually feels good. And it could really make a big difference.