Putting my life in the hands of… someone who has their hands on the phone

Today's guest post is by Peppercommer Lia LoBello.

A quick snap of all the cruise ships in port on a sunny South Florida day. The sentence, “I don’t know…maybe something with chicken?” Scrolling through Facebook updates obsessively.
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What do all of these things have in common? They are just a few of the things various members of my family decided to Instagram, text, and view, respectively, on their phones around me this holiday. The only problem? All of this took place in the car. While they were driving. Sometimes at 85 miles an hour. Sometimes on the highway.  Almost always in traffic.

We’ve all seen the commercials on the dangers of texting while driving, but here in New York City, where daily life rarely requires getting behind the wheel, I luckily haven’t had to play passenger to anyone who has one hand at ten o’clock…and one on their iPhone.

Until this past Thanksgiving and Christmas, when I found myself begging various members of my family – and not just my siblings in case you think this is a generational thing – if I could please text for them. Or take a picture and upload it (with the appropriate hash tags, of course.) Or if maybe Facebook could wait a second because, “We’re by the mall and it’s the day before Christmas so there are a lot of cars right here and maybe we should pay attention because oooooh ooooooh that’s a red light that we’re driving up to now. Yes now.  Right now. OH MY GOD NOW. STOP.”*

In 95 percent of cases, I was told “No, Lia, it’s fine. I do this all the time.” The other five percent was an equally not assuring, “RELAX LIA. JESUS, YOU ARE SO ANNOYING.”  I consider all of these people smart and as far as I know, they also would like to remain alive for the foreseeable future. So I really couldn’t believe they didn’t see how they were drifting within their own lane and sometimes into the next one. Or how many times they were tapping the brakes unnecessarily.  Or how closely they were tailgating. 

During one particular ride, I was so scared I just threw back the seat, laid down, closed my eyes and prayed we would make it.

Companies like AT&T – which full disclosure, is a former client of Peppercomm – have tried to do their part by showing truly heartbreaking commercials on the dangers of texting while driving by people who are handicapped because of their own accidents, or have lost loved ones. NBC's Rock Center also just aired a segment discussing how lawmakers in various states are trying to deal with the problem, as the punishments aren't being doled out in accordance with the crime. From what I saw on the roads, there is a long, long way to go.

While companies like AT&T are definitely on the right track, there is clearly more work to be done before the dangers of the practice make a dent in the public consciousness.  While staring out the passenger-side window (so as to notice less some of the aforementioned swaying and near-misses) I saw countless other drivers tapping away on their keys. Some of them were actually holding the phone up to their faces so as to better see the screen. As in – blocking their view of the actual road. Or even more to the point, not bothering to look at the road at all.

Any organization that can find a way to successfully own this cause will save countless lives in the process. At the very least, they will save people like me – who rely on family to get around while home – years of their life now lost thanks to a steady flow of pure, unadulterated fear coursing through their veins for extended periods of time.

Next time I’m home, I’m renting a car.

*actual words said by me

5 thoughts on “Putting my life in the hands of… someone who has their hands on the phone

  1. Great post, Lia, and I say this mainly because I experience the same issue when I am home. I’m not really sure why a response to a text message cannot wait until a car is safely parked. I’m always told to “shut up” and “stop being so uptight”. I usually respond with “You already drive like a drunk Mr. Magoo and I am not dying in a car crash because you can’t wait to text your boyfriend.”
    Please note that no members of my family have ever driven drunk, but one person in particular is just not a great driver.
    I just don’t really understand why anyone, regardless of age, thinks it’s appropriate to text and drive (specially when most people still haven’t mastered the driving part).

  2. Thanks, Laura! At the very least – wait until the red light! Though that’s terrible, too. Just not actually while physically driving the car!

  3. Until some catastrophic disaster happens that is caused by someone texting while driving (like a school bus full of grade-school children killed, God forbid) the laws will not change.
    It took the Newtown tragedy to wake up this nation to start a meaningful dialogue about gun violence.