This wasn't an easy past few weeks but I am really glad that AT&T and the folks at It Can Wait invited me to join them in their campaign to eliminate distracted driving. Using a mobile device while driving is something that virtually everyone does at least occasionally. While I have always been as safe as possible - I often tried to justify it as "I'm still being safe ... it was only for a second". Unfortunately, just one brief moment can be an eternity when the unexpected is waiting to happen. At the onset of the campaign, I knew that this was something that I did periodically but I typically justified it as saying that I "only did it at stop signs" or other times that it was "safe". However, having taken the It Can Wait Pledge I decided to follow the instructions to the word and not "bend the rules".
What I discovered after taking the It Can Wait pledge was pretty interesting. The first thing is that it's totally doable - but having a reason helps keep you on track. Second, I discovered that most of the distractions such as incoming calls or those random phone "beeps" turned out to be not so urgent anyhow. It's all too easy to feel like you might miss something but truthfully, 95% of stuff can and should wait - and the remaining situations will find other ways to reach you such as leaving a voice mail or calling someone else who they think might be with you. Ultimately very few people would prefer that you respond to their message if it puts you or your passengers in danger.
Most of the other stuff simply comes down to prioritization. Think of it this way ... is the safety of myself, my passengers, and my property more or less important than a text from a friend or taking that quick picture of something cool on the side of the road. The answer should always side with the safety of you and your passengers. Once you make the decision that these distractions can wait, it gets a lot easier!
Tips for Being Successful at Eliminating Distracted Driving Due to Mobile Device Use:
Take the Pledge - I really can't stress the importance enough of taking the pledge. There's something that clicks in the human brain that differentiates between "yeah, I'll do that" and "I told others I will do that". By having taken the It Can Wait Pledge, I was committed to making a change in my behavior and that helped me be more successful than I would have otherwise been.
Relax and Remember What's Important - The answer should be easy when you think about what's more important - your health and safety or an incoming text. However, we don't always think that way since bad stuff "probably won't" happen. Unfortunately, the reality is that it's going to happen to someone and you can't control other drivers or unexpected road conditions that require extra skill and attention.
Use Technology like DriveMode to Help - AT&T has a great app called DriveMode that you can download from It Can Wait that works to eliminate distractions from your phone while driving. This app will even send texts back to your friends saying that you are driving so that they will know why you aren't responding. Apple Car Play and Android Auto are other great solutions as well that help reduce distractions from your phone while integrating functionality directly into your car's navigation system. Use these apps to help you make smart decisions!
Ask Another Driver to Take Over - Despite our best intentions, there are some occasions where you know that you need to be in the car and also be engaged with an online conversation. In those cases it is best to ask another drive to take over for you. That could be just till the next rest stop or it could be for the entire trip.
Consider Other Transportation Options - Likewise, for situations where you know that distractions will be constant, you might simply choose to choose an alternative form of transportation. This might include taking a bus or it could even include hiring a shared ride service to do a "photo safari" around a city vs you feeling compelled to have your phone out.
Finish Online Before Leaving - There are some instances where I'm having a conversation going on while I walk out the door or where things are open ended. Instead of leaving the conversation going, simply tell the other person, "I'm going to be driving for the next 30 minutes" so they know the conversation is ended, or at least on hold.
Turn Your Volume Down - Despite all my best efforts, I'm addicted to the "possibility" - my phone is like a slot machine and whenever it beeps, buzzes, or rings there's a chance it's something cool. (but sadly usually not) The busier I get the more I realize that things can wait. Not everything needs an immediate response and most of the emails I get are pitches that don't matter anyhow. So simply turning the ringer off can be a huge benefit to your working to eliminate distractions. For me, I use this even when I'm at my desk by closing browser tabs too.
Give it a Chance - Behavior modification takes time and many people believe that 21 days is the magic number. I don't think I know anyone that believes that distracted drivers are safer ... just that it's challenging to eliminate distraction. So in addition to taking the It Can Wait pledge, just give it a chance. Try it for 21 days and if you are like me then you'll find out that it's something that you will continue even beyond that time!