Every once in a while a story appears in the news that takes my breath away. Such was the nature of a news post about a car accident that recently took place in Minnesota.
A pregnant mom and her 3 young children were fatally side-swiped on their way to Vacation Bible School by a truck that ran a red light. While it has not been proven yet, the evidence is pointing to the possibility that the person driving the truck was distracted by texting.
In a matter of a few days, a young man lost his wife and his 3 kids plus an unborn child. They were gone. I can’t imagine how this man feels right now. One thing is for sure; if I ever feel the temptation to do anything on my phone while I’m driving, I will think of him.
I’ve been thinking about all of this a lot, and today I want to share some of my thoughts with you. My hope is that, after you read this article, you will feel the same sense of urgency that I do about helping to change the way our culture behaves when it comes to texting and driving.
We Know Texting and Driving is Dangerous
We know it’s dangerous but we don’t think anything will happen to us.
Think about it. We do all kinds of things that we know are dangerous. Most people I’ve encountered who smoke cigarettes are aware that it is bad for their lungs and may even shorten their life.
Still, this doesn’t stop them from smoking.
Those who overeat know that it will cause health problems in their future. Still, they just keep eating.
The same is true with texting.
Sitting at an Intersection Texting
Have you ever looked to see what other drivers around you are doing at an intersection? Most of them are unaware of what is going on. Why? They are staring down at their phone between their legs.
An article by CBS news written a few years back confirms this.
According to a survey, 98 percent of motorists who own cell phones and text regularly said they were aware of the dangers, yet three-quarters of them admitted to texting while driving, despite laws against it in some states.
The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year. Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving. 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
If you text and drive, you’re 23 times more likely to have a car crash. 23 times!!
A Look at the Science Behind the Behavior
Despite these staggering statistics, many of us continue to text and drive. Why is the temptation to look at our phones while we are driving so strong?
Dr. David Greenfield, founder of the Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, said “it’s because our brains react to our smartphone the same way they react to a drug.
When our phones beep or buzz with a notification, he said, it’s letting the brain know that something pleasurable is waiting. Our brains release a chemical called dopamine which is the same chemical that is produced when taking drugs, having sex, and eating food.”
For more on dopamine, read my article called How to Better Manage Your Kids Screen Time.
He goes on to say that “cell phones are basically the world’s smallest slot machines.” This is what makes them so irresistible.
As for what it will take to get people to stop texting and driving, he says, “Texting and driving have to become culturally unacceptable the same way drunk driving has…”
I couldn’t agree more!
What it Takes to Change Behavior
I grew up in the 80’s. As a high school student, I remember learning about drinking and driving. This was around the time that Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) came into existence. How did they tell us about the danger of drinking and driving?
They would bring us face to face with someone’s gut-wrenching story about their son or daughter or brother or sister that was killed by a drunk driver.
I remember them showing us graphic movies about this and sometimes they would even bring the crushed car to the school and park it right in the front where everyone could see it.
Today, MADD has over 600 state organizations, chapters, and community action teams in each of the 50 states as well as affiliates in Guam, Puerto Rico and Canada. MADD consists of over three million members and supporters nationwide.
Amazingly, MADD reports that drunk driving related deaths have decreased every year since its inception in 1980.
I believe that a similar type onslaught needs to happen with texting and driving. We must come together and do everything we can to stop this from happening. We must be countercultural and slowly change how people think about this.
With all this said, how many more people have to die before we come together on this?
Tragedy in Houston
This past spring in Houston, TX, a man named Jody Kuchner was traveling down the road when he noticed that the pickup truck ahead of him was swerving.
He immediately called the sheriff’s office to get this driver off the road before something terrible happened. Unfortunately, help did not come quickly enough. Before he could say anything, he watched the pickup truck cross the center line and strike an oncoming bus.
Altogether, the crash killed 13 people.
After the dust settled, it was announced that the bus riders were from the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas. The group was returning from a three-day retreat at the Alto Frio Baptist Encampment.
I could go on and on with more stories if I had the time.
What You Can Do
I don’t know about you. When I read an article like this I feel overwhelmed and hopeless. I often think, “How can I make a difference to such a huge problem?”
I believe it starts with every one of us taking personal responsibility. We must stop texting and driving and we have to stop tolerating it as well.
The next time you are riding in a car and you see the driver grab for his phone, do everything you can to assist him so that he doesn’t put both of your lives in jeopardy.
We should also continue to tell the stories of those who lost their lives so that the pain and suffering their families have experienced does not stay hidden behind statistics.
This might not feel like much, but every little bit helps. We all have a sphere of influence. Let’s start there.
Take the Challenge
Would you join me in sharing this article with your friends on social media along with the following hashtag? #donttextanddrive
It could mean the difference between life and death for a family that you know and love.
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