I can vividly remember using my Nokia brick phone: texting was up-and-coming, the T9 keyboard was it, and I had gotten so good at it that I could type a whole words and sentences without even looking at the screen - 4-4-3-3-9-9-9 (Hey).
I remember crusing down US 41 in my white Ford Taurus at 19, clicking away at my numbers to let my friends know, "I'm on my way to the beach!" or "Let's hang out later". Using a T9 keyboard, that's a LOT of clicking. One hand on the wheel, eyes on the road, my other hand repeatedly clicking numbers to spell out perfect words and sentences...aka, texting and driving, before texting and driving became a recognized problematic act.
Fast forward several years to the world of touchscreen phones and the need for constant communication followed by the expectation that if you've got a smartphone, you'd better respond - and promptly.
This expectation has encouraged the texting and driving trend to continue...and it's gotten worse. While I'm sure there were accidents back in the T9 texting days - the rate at which they are occuring in today's society is staggering and so sad.
So, what's the solution? I've heard some very basic (and obvious) suggestions to negate the issue: leave your phone in your purse on silent, put the phone in the backseat so you can't reach it, designate a texter if you've got a passenger. All good suggestions. I've even heard of some great visual suggestions to avoid texting and driving, like painting your thumbnail red. Whatever method works for you is the method you should use, because the truth is, texting and driving IS dangerous.
On a permanent quest to implement more mindfulness into my day, mindful driving was born, and I want you to try it.
Think about it: how many times have you driven from point A to point B and not remembered how you got there? Part of this is normal psychology, and not dangerous. The point of mindful driving is not to constantly assess what you're doing: these driving skills evolve over time and become comfortable, safe aspects of operating a motor vehicle. Think rocking out to music on a long road trip: you're just driving (and maybe singing), but that's it. Driving shouldn't be exhausting, but there is a level of energy and attention required to do it safely.
When you're driving and your phone goes off,
- Realize it can wait. Your text will be there when you arrive at your destination.
- Check in with your ego: what is it that's making you want to respond, right here, right now? It's probably a habit that's evolved over time.
- Use it as an opportunity to be mindful. What do you see? What do you hear? Are you comfortable in your seat? Can you feel the seatbelt pressing lightly against your waist and chest? What about your hands...are you white-knucking the wheel, or do you have a comfortably loose yet attentive grasp?
- Weigh the risks vs. rewards of responding. Your best friend isn't going to defriend you becuase you didn't respond within 5 minutes. Your mom's text about next weekend's plans can wait. Most people realize that their life is valuable, and short.
The point of mindful driving is to recognize your urge to use your phone behind the wheel and make an alternative choice by recognizing what is happening in the present moment. There are always exceptions, but try and make them less frequently. A long red light is a good time to say, "I'm driving and l'll get at you when I get home" but not to involve yourself in a conversation worthy of Facebook messenger.
The more mindfulness we can bring into our day, the better - and this isn't just some useless mindfulness exercise. As heavy as it sounds, you could save a life - and no text is as valuable as your life.