I know it’s bad, but once you start, it’s a really hard habit to break.
I didn’t used to do it at all. I’m not really sure why I started. I was really good about it for a long time. And then, every once and awhile I would. I never do it when my kids are around; I want to set a good example and I don’t want to put them at risk. This week, I caught myself doing it late at night and had a reality check: this needs to stop before I hurt myself or someone else.
I don’t smoke. I drink occasionally … maybe a few drinks a month. I’m a vegetarian, I meditate and have a 6 day a week yoga practice. All in all, I take good care of myself, but if I don’t stop texting and driving, it could kill me—or someone else.
We all know it’s unsafe, but lots of us are still doing it, at least some of the time. According to the CDC, nine people die daily, and another 1,060 are injured in crashes involving distracted driving. Sixty-nine percent of American drivers report carrying on conversations while driving, and another 31 percent report reading or sending texts and emails while driving. Recently, I sheepishly admitted this habit to a friend, who immediately replied, “Me too!” We all know it’s risky, but lots of us are doing it anyway.
A first step to banishing this habit might be looking at why we do it.
1. Our society prizes being busy. Being overextended and perpetually busy is a status symbol. If you are busy, it means you are important.
2. While it’s vastly different from actual attention deficit disorder, we have cultivated a short attention span culture. We rarely do just one thing; multitasking is the norm.
3. We are connected 24/7—electronically—but our actual connection time with each other has diminished. More and more we are a touch free society; we need to feel some sense of intimacy and connection, so we overcompensate with the virtual kind.
Shifting our perspective and our habits in those three areas may be a good start being more present, while driving and in every part of life.
It has been two days since I texted while driving.
I was driving down a steep hill in the dark and heard my phone buzz and picked it up to look at it.
I started to reply, and then realized if I did, there was a good probability I would not be able to stay in my lane and not be able to respond quickly if a car came around the turn. It wasn’t an important message. No one’s life was going to be saved by me answering right then. The world was not going to be a better place, and I wasn’t going to be any happier or more fulfilled by texting back (or even reading the text) at that moment. And it could have killed me or someone else. It was a much needed reality check. We all have little habits we aren’t proud of that we know we should give up. If this is one of yours, please consider finding a way to stop.
Five things I’ve done to help kick the habit:
1. Turn off the ringer in the car.
We get to be a little Pavlovian with our phones. Every buzz or notification makes us leap to see what’s going on. It makes it tough to stay present and focused.
2. Take it one step further: put it in your bag or glove box.
If you are really hooked…stick it in the back seat. Get it out of reach while you are driving so you will be less tempted to peek at it “just once.”
3. Tune in to what you are doing with all five senses.
The best way to be fully present is to make it a full body experience. Roll down your windows so you can feel the wind on your face and listen to the noises outside. Notice how your body is feeling in the seat. Relax any tension in your body and focus your vision on the road ahead.
4. “Just this.”
Make this your mantra. We are so used to doing ten things at once. While working, I often have two computers open and my phone nearby. Fact: it doesn’t help me get more done any better or any faster. Let go of the glorification of busy and just do one thing well.
5. Accept that when you are driving a car, you are taking on a potentially life threatening task.
I remember my driving instructor saying this to me about wearing a seat belt while driving. Putting on your seat belt is an acknowledgment that you are engaging in a potentially dangerous task. The idea of texting while flying a plane is horrifying, because most of us don’t fly planes daily. Although driving a car is second nature and we often don’t give it a second thought, we are “piloting” heavy machinery with lethal capabilities; this deserves our respect and full attention.
Be well, be safe and don’t text and drive!
Photo credit: Flickr / Design by Zouny