By Laura Moore
Most of us--I'd like to believe--are just trying to get by. We're trying to move from point A to point B, and as we traverse that often chaotic road, we are tackling as many things as possible: answering emails, texts and phone calls on the fly, eating lunch between stop lights, trying to figure out what our kids are doing in the backseat.
But as seemingly innocent as it seems to do those things behind the wheel of a car, the truth is: multitasking while driving is dangerous.
And we need to stop.
Like the rest of America, I've heard this over-stated statement a thousand times, and despite agreeing with the logic, time and time again, I have defied it. For years, I have multi-tasked behind the wheel of my car. I've checked my phone at stop lights, I've glanced over at the Maps app while moving, I've nibbled on a sandwich, and I've cleaned up piping hot Starbucks drips when I should have been focused on the road beneath my wheels.
This past Friday, however, I decided to quit.
On my way to the grocery store, I watched a twenty-something guy--driving 40 miles per hour--barrel into an elderly woman sitting at a stop light, behind a line of other cars that had been sitting still for at least as long as it took me to approach the light, turn the corner and drive roughly one hundred feet up the road. Distracted myself, I glanced over when I noticed how fast he was going, and saw him, with his head down, focused on what looked to be his phone, while his car collided square and hard into the woman in front of him. The scene unfolded in slow motion, and as each second ticked past, I hoped harder and harder that he would look up and slam on his breaks.
She jolted forward and back multiple times like a crash test dummy; I wanted to vomit. She was terribly hurt--she had to be--and a surge of pain shot up through my neck just watching her jerk back and forth in the seat. A line of traffic extended for at least a half of a mile behind the man driving his car. There was nowhere for me to pull off and no way I'd reach her if I turned around. So I kept driving: sickened, worried, changed.
Seeing that accident forced me to stop and think about the act of driving. It forced me to look through a different lens. It forced me to realize that whether or not I think about it on a regular basis, each time I turn the ignition, I hold power: real, distinct, scary, awesome power. The act of driving might feel commonplace, but it is a tremendous responsibility to operate a 3,000 pound vehicle, and to accelerate that vehicle to 25, 35, 45, 55, 65 or 75 miles per hour on a road with other vehicles operated by different human beings who may or may not respect the rules in place to keep us all alive.
Add distractions to that reality--toss in moments where we pick up our phone, apply our makeup, eat our lunch, turn around to laugh, stare at billboards or erratically cut around someone who has stopped--and you have an even more complicated, scary, dangerous situation. A situation that happens because human beings are driven and stressed and curious. A situation that happens because we decide, in a moment of weakness, that our needs are more important than the safety of others.
I know that most of the time nothing bad happens, and I realize that we live in a world that expects us to be accessible, but I also know that gambling can be a dangerous game. At some point, everyone's luck runs out, and a single lapse of judgment, a single instant of inattention, a single moment of selfishness can ruin absolutely everything.
It just doesn't seem like its worth the risk anymore, and so I've decided to stop my multi-tasking ways.
I've decided to become a mono-tasker behind the wheel.
I've decided to pledge.
And because I want this world to somehow, in some small way, get a little bit safer, I sure as heck hope you will too.
The Mono-Tasker Pledge
I vow to:
1. Set aside my phone, food, and other distractions, and focus instead on the asphalt.
2. Respect the weight of a 3,000 pound vehicle.
3. Honor the 6000 people who died last year in distracted driving accidents by learning from their mistakes.
4. Think about the other cars on the road.
5. Pull off and deal with life when it can't wait, and ignore it when it can.