The Deadly Thing You Do Every Day—And Lie to Yourself About

by Erin Nelson- May 19, 2014 • 10:38 am


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It’s time we tell the truth. I’ll go first: I’ve texted while driving. Though I have a husband and two children who need me. Though everyone else on the highway is also vital and precious and loved. I heard the buzz and Did. Not. Resist.

It was yesterday. And a few days before that. And this morning.

And you know what’s really appalling? I work for a mobile software company that makes a safe driving app, one that automatically locks a phone when it senses you’re in motion. Yeah. You read that right. Oh, and as their communications director, it’s my job to keep up on stats, read every horrible news story, devise methods for convincing compelling people to keep their eyes ON THE ROAD.

[That safe driving app, by the way? It’s FREE. F. R. E. E. So stop reading and get it now. Then come back and read more. Because I bet you could use convincing about WHY YOU NEED THE APP AND SHOULD ACTUALLY USE IT. Because the truth is worse than you think.]

We all know smartphones are a blessing and a curse. Great for reading news anywhere, knowing where your friends are, using an app that reminds me to drink enough water (waaay more than I thought I needed, by the way). Not so great that I get the shakes when it’s been 17 minutes since I checked it. Did I get an email? A text? Did a post just go by on Facebook that WOULD HAVE CHANGED MY LIFE VIA AN EARTH-SHATTERING INSIGHT SPELLED OUT IN SPARKLY RAINBOWS EMBLAZONED ON A BANNER CATAPULTED ACROSS THE SUNSET BY WINGED UNICORNS IF ONLY I’D SEEN IT AND NOW I’LL NEVER FIND IT EVER EVER???

What could possibly be that important? Seriously. What? So important that we force our kids to wait too long for our attention—repeatedly. So important that we make zero eye contact with the person pouring our latte. So important that we can’t even take a break from our phones while we drive, even though EVERY TIME WE PICK UP OUR PHONES BEHIND THE WHEEL WE ARE SIX TIMES MORE DANGEROUS THAN IF WE WERE DRIVING DRUNK. Yes, you read that right: DRUNK. I did not make that up for effect. That’s straight from the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

But we all do it. We all think:

“Just this once.”

“It’s only gonna take me a second.”

“It’ll be easier to reply now.”

In fact, the NHTSA reports that 77% of young adult drivers are somewhat to very confident they can safely text while driving. WELL THEY’RE WRONG. And though I am most definitely no longer a young adult (40, people, FORTY!), apparently I STILL have trouble knowing better.

Okay, I told the truth. Now it’s YOUR turn.

YOU (and I) are one of the 67% of people who use phones while they drive, the 26% who text or email, the 48% who answer calls. YOU (and I) are one of the 660,000 DRIVERS EVERY MINUTE OF EVERY DAY USING PHONES WHILE DRIVING. And because they’re messing with their phones instead of paying attention to the road, they’re TWENTY-THREE TIMES MORE LIKELY TO CRASH. These numbers aren’t made up, either—they’re right from AAA.

If you’re reading this, you’ve obviously gotten lucky, ’cause you’re still here. Like me.

So far.

So let me ask you this, because it’s what I asked myself today after I arrived safely at work, finished the text I’d started on the road, and suddenly, for whatever reason (Why now? Why today?), took a hard look at what I’d just done and thought: Erin, do you want to be one of the 3,400+ people who will die this year because you just had to check your phone while you were driving? Do you want to be someone who kills one of those 3,400+?

Me neither.

So turn over a new leaf. This isn’t “I’m totally gonna go to the gym more.” Or “I pinky-promise to cut down on caffeine.”

This is life and death.

And because it’s life and death, it’s not easy. So here’s one thing you can do right now, to help yourself break the habit. I’m doing it, and so should you.

Use an app to help you. (Ironic, I know—use the phone to help you not use your phone.)

I work with some amazing people—developers and product managers and usability testers and designers and dog-lovers—who are just as guilty as you and I are. And they did something about it. They built a new, easy-to-use, truly delightful (seriously—the cartoon tutorial is brilliant) app called Drive First, for every Android phone. It detects when you’re driving and automatically locks your phone. No buzzing messages to tug at you. No calls. No push notifications from Facebook telling you (the MOMENT it happens, because it’s THAT IMPORTANT) that the second-cousin of your seventh-grade crush’s stepdad just liked the article you shared about kittens tattooing sparkly images of baby hippos onto the flanks of the cutest fake-mustache-wearing babies in all of North America.

Because you know why? YOU CAN TAKE CARE OF ALL THAT STUFF LATER.

Because really, there’s nothing more important in life than … staying alive. Right? So we’ve made the app FREE. 100% free. Download it. I just did (yes, it’s beyond embarrassing and irresponsible that it’s taken me this long). Let. Us. Help. You.

Kicking the habit is hard.

You don’t have to go it alone.

Photo: Phils’s 1stPix

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