The Text That Maimed Me
Well…not me personally.
It’s been a while since I did a technology piece here, and I must speak out on this issue. My children and I love technology. We wallow in it. My girls grew up with Internet email, Myspace, and MSN Chat. In fact, I read later in a MySpace blog entry that a short bout with unemployment which prevented us from having in-house Internet access brought on, in at least one of my daughters, a case of technology withdrawal depression.
When they got older, and need and improved financial circumstances permitted it, they moved up to cell phones and texting. We put together a family shared-minutes plan with Verizon that they help me keep paid up.
A couple of years before that I met someone of their generation with a rather interesting and dangerous habit. I won’t name him, he knows who he is and is one of my Facebook friends. He will see this post. He’s still alive; I see updates from him occasionally.
The labels on all of the buttons on his cell phone had long since wore off from texting, with only the keypad backlight shining through. I had to make a call on his phone a couple of times when the battery on mine had died, but I had to look at both phones while I dialed to be sure that I hit the right keys.
We were employed together for a short time, and the nature of our employment involved a lot of driving from place to place on Utah’s freeways. He would sometimes text and drive and he was a master at it.
I was actually kind of impressed at the way he did it. The lack of numbers on the keypad didn’t stymie him in the slightest because he was so familiar with the key positions he could touch-type, one-thumbed, very rapidly. Then in a few seconds the phone would beep and he’d glance at it to read the message. Now when I say “glance” I mean “glance” in the sense that it almost looked like the way the TV news anchor lady glances at the copy on the desk in front of her as she reads the news stories. She does it so fast it looks like a blink. This guy wasn’t quite that quick, but close. Then he’d type some more, wait for the beep, glance, type, beep, glance, type, beep, etc.
I hope he’s gotten smarter over the years and stopped. I won’t say that I’ve never done it…but I will say I’ll never do it again. In fact, on longer trips like to book signings in Laramie I’ve been putting the phone in airplane mode or simply turning it off. I check in with my wife at rest stops so that she knows I’m ok.
Last week, my daughter Krista posted the following viral video on her Facebook update. At&T did this documentary about texting while driving. It containes several case studies of people who destroyed or lost their lives because of traffic accidents that occurred while a driver used his or her cell phone to read or type a text message. They did a great job on the documentary; it’s pretty powerful.
Watch the video. Then when you get in your car, put the phone away. If you have to charge it in the car, set it face-down on the seat next to you and don’t touch it again until you get to where your going. Cellphone use for voice or chat while driving is illegal in some states, with good reason. I gets people killed.
Hands-free devices for voice calls help, but studies show that even then the driver is distracted. If you have to, use a blue-tooth ear-piece, but keep the calls short and avoid placing calls with it.
Life is too important, and short enough as it is, to let your cell phone kill you.
- Md. bill to tighten cell phone use while driving (seattletimes.nwsource.com)
- Driver Updating Facebook Accused of Fatal Crash (ridelust.com)
- Stiff fines for drivers caught texting or talking behind the wheel (cinquez.wordpress.com)