Max and I have been having many conversations about consequences lately. The biggest consequence for him so far is having all technology taken away for a few days. At the young age of four, this consequence has more of an effect on me than it does on him.
As a parent, I think the conversation around consequences is probably even more important than the consequences themselves. It is my duty to ensure that this tiny human realizes every action he takes has an effect on himself and those around him and maybe even the entire world.
In order to teach this lesson effectively, it is imperative that I intentionally verbalize some of the actions that I take. One of the lessons that I have decided is important enough to repeat to Max on an ongoing basis is driving without distraction. If you have driven with a toddler in the back seat of your vehicle, you already know that it is hard not to be distracted by the constant demands for attention being hurled over your shoulder (sometimes quite literally). Driving with children is not the only distraction though.
Today, most of us are fully integrated into an online world of communication with our families and friends and most of us are tied to that world through notifications. We are conditioned to respond immediately to sounds that let us know we have an incoming text, phone call, Facebook message, and on and on it goes. When we allow ourselves to continue these conversations while we are driving, we put everyone on the road around us, including ourselves, at great risk.
I am guilty of this. There have been times when I feel the urgent need to respond. Times I have the classic FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) on a conversation with a group of friends. Times when I have disregarded safety and excused it with my confidence in being able to split my focus for just a second. Because that is how long it takes to check a text, right?
This statistic grabbed me: Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded. (2009, VTTI)
According to the Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC), distracted drivers experience the same level of impairment as someone with a blood-alcohol content of .08 and that distracted driving is estimated to be a contributing factor in eight out of 10 police-reported crashes.
We wouldn’t consider drinking and driving. We wouldn’t consider driving blindfolded on a stretch of road even smaller than a football field. So why do we still engage in distracted driving? I think that awareness is part of the issue. We need to have these conversations with our kids and our friends. Let everyone know that your phone will not be in use while you are driving. Make sure your kids see you model this behaviour and talk to them about distracted driving just like you would about driving under the influence. Because little distractions can have life-changing consequences.
I came across the “It Can Wait” campaign the other day and took the pledge. I love the integration of pop culture and hashtagging to quickly indicate that you are getting behind the wheel and will not be responding until you have safely arrived at your destination. I hope you take the pledge and, more importantly, I hope you involve your family in this important conversation.
Misty Hamel was a special guest of Reader’s Digest and AMA, helping to raise awareness against distracted driving. She blogs at lifewhereweare.com