Don’t Read this Tweet while Driving

19 Jul

About three years ago, the car I was driving was nearly hit head on by a minivan driven by another mother as she pulled into the Exit Only of our high school. She never saw me, never heard my horn blaring, never once looked my way, even as she drove right past where I’d swerved onto the grass in order to avoid collision. Still engrossed in her cellphone conversation, she continued entering through the exit and on into the school parking lot. Luckily, it was well past 3 p.m., so no student drivers were around for her to pick off on her way to pick up.

Since then, I’ve been a big advocate of hands free and focused driving habits. That’s why today’s recommended read is an article in the New York Times, Driven to Distraction. I think we’ve all experienced many of the situations described. Just yesterday, for example, as we headed to the beach on the interstate, I cautioned my husband to get ahead of the Lincoln Aviator we were following. The driver was erratic and had swerved several times into the adjacent lane, once very nearly colliding with the car next to it. I pointed out that we were close enough behind to be involved if a crash did occur. As we passed the Aviator, I looked over at the driver. Sure enough, she was on a cell phone.

The Times article points out that although we know that fiddling with our devices while driving is dangerous, we’re still very unlikely to stop doing it. Admittedly, I haven’t completely stopped multitasking while driving, though my cell phone/BlackBerry use has become much rarer. Still, 5 seconds is all it takes to change a life. Which is why I do think laws are needed and it’s disappointing that lawmakers are reluctant to pass limitations.

Apparently the cell phone industry has taken a neutral stance. That’s too bad, because it would be a good public relations move to align itself with public safety. It might provide a good value proposition for new voice-guided GPS smartphone applications too. A couple of weeks ago, I came very close to buying AT&T’s new Navigator app for the iPhone, but it came at a price of $9.99 a month. No way! I thought. Get a grip on your pricing, AT&T! Why would I pay for this? How’s it better than the Garmin?

But after this article, perhaps I might rethink the app for safety reasons. $120 a year seems a small price to pay for not having to look down every few minutes at a silent navigator. Interestingly, if you watch the flash for AT&T’s Navigator, you’ll notice that safety isn’t part of the AT&T pitch (having GPS with you all the time, and finding the lowest priced gas and a wifi spot is).  And, yikes!, it includes a photo of a woman behind the wheel staring at her phone (though it’s not clear if she’s on the road or parked – but why include such an ambiguous photo?!?!).

I’m also thinking that it might be a good idea to get my teen to sign a driving contract. I found a pretty comprehensive one here that can be modified to individual situations.

Bottom line: Driving without distractions is the way to go.

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