The other day I spent some time on the interstate. The kids were in the car with me, so I decided to play a fun game called “How Many People Have Wanton Disregard For Everyone Else on the Road?”
Spoiler alert: It’s a lot.
It started when a car approached on my left. A quick glance showed that the guy sitting where the driver normally sits really should not be called the driver, because he was not driving. He was just sitting there as the car sped along. Rather, what he was doing was texting.
And I mean all in texting. Phone on the steering wheel, cradled by both hands, his thumbs just a flying.
“Dad, he’s not even looking at the road,” my daughter noted.
This was an important thing for her to notice, since she will apply to earn her restricted license in just days. It is easy for me to make sure that her phone is not in use when I am in the car. But when she heads off on her own? I need to know that she will stick to that key rule.
So I asked my son, who was sitting in the back, to count how many people we passed were texting. Not making calls or glancing at GPS, etc. I mean full-on texting. Eyes down, fingers in a flurry.
Twenty. Over about 40 miles of interstate, 20 people were texting. Keep in mind this is fairly heavy traffic, all barreling along in the 70 mph range.
I pointed out to my daughter than any of those 20 people would have been in big trouble had anything out of the ordinary happened in front of them. And there would likely be a lot of people who weren’t texting who would be affected in potentially life-altering ways.
And I am going to go out on a limb and say that most — no all — of those texts could have waited.
Here is another interesting observation: Of the 20 texters, only two had passengers in the car. I wonder how many of those 18 solo texters would have pulled their phone out if someone was in the car. They know they shouldn’t be doing it.
The notion of turning the keys over to my 15-year-old daughter is enough for concern. The thought that she might decide to put driving on the back burner so she could text an emoji response to a friend is terrifying. Fortunately, I have told my daughter that I have installed cameras in the car, and I also now have an app called “Is My Daughter Texting While Driving?” that I keep on all the time.
I have no idea if such as app exists. But even if there was an app named that but didn’t even do anything, I’d consider dropping 99 cents for that. It’s like getting a security system sign for your yard, but not actually having a security system.
In all seriousness, I have faith that my daughter will follow the rules of the road — including the no-texting one — has she has always been good at following the rules, as long as the rule is not “Clean your room.”
Hopefully, our super fun interstate game only drove home the point even more. And if you are one of those who goes full-on texter when you’re driving just, please, stop. Seriously. You wouldn’t just close your eyes for three, four, five seconds and feel fine about it. But that’s what you’re doing. You’re taking your eyes off the road. You can’t pay attention to the road when you’re paying attention to your phone. In fact, you can’t pay attention to much of anything else. Major League Baseball is considering putting up nets in front of the fans because so many are getting plunked by foul balls because they are busy staring at their phones. And if you get hit by a foul ball, you don’t cause a chain reaction traffic pile-up.
So just put the phone away. Drive. Enjoy the road. If you’re on your phone in a moving car, you should be a passenger. And you can keep checking your “Is My Daughter Texting While Driving?” app.
Mike Gibbons was born and raised in Aiken, S.C. A graduate of the University of Alabama, he now lives in Charleston. You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @StandardMike.