Distracted Living = Death
Detours in Life
Pentecost 135 – 142
Over the weekend I experienced a major detour of sorts. It started out like your typical detour – orange cones on the roadway, a worker in a bright reflective yellow vest, and flashing electric signs that said… “Detour Ahead”. It wasn’t the usual detour that takes you off the main road or around an obstacle. It was simply lane closures while the pavement was being regrooved and then new asphalt applied.
We could discuss for great lengths about the wisdom of the timing of the construction work. The three hours it took to drive what usually takes forty minutes is testament to the fact that someone planned quite poorly. Traffic was backed up not just on the major highway I was traveling but also on secondary roads and the backups lasted for hours. Cars were changing lanes at the first sign of a six-inch opening, only to discover none of the lanes were moving faster than the others. At one point the three lines traveling in one direction became two and then all traffic was reduced to just one lane.
The real danger was not in the speed but in the fact that all but two drivers of the over one hundred and fifty we passed (I stopped counting at that point.) were all on the cell phones. Truckers, commercial bus drivers, and passenger car drivers alike were all keeping themselves entertained by using their phones. While our speed was obviously not great, the volume of vehicles and the fact that we did inch forward required attention to the road and yet, most drivers were more attentive to their phones than the traffic and road conditions.
Yesterday Bloomberg.com published a great article regarding the danger of cell phones when combined with driving a car. Written by Kyle Stock, Lance Lambert, and David Ingold, the article should be required reading for all operating a vehicle. Now before you go to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration website, let state that, for the record, fewer than one in seventy road fatalities are attributed to cell phone usage. Those statistics are misleading, though.
In 2014 only 1.5 percent of traffic fatalities were linked to cell phone usage, although the total number of deaths rose significantly while the number of miles traveled stayed the same. The details are in the reporting of traffic fatalities. The state of Tennessee has one of the most thorough traffic reports in the USA with law enforcement asked to notate distractions in general and cell phone usage in particular. Statistics rely on data and many states simply are not acquiring such data.
While traffic fatalities in Tennessee accounted for less than five percent of the national tally, those attributed to cell phone distraction accounted for nineteen percent. This is not because more people in Tennessee own a cell phone than elsewhere. It is because they are acquiring their facts better than other states.
Almost eighty-two percent of the public now owns a smart phone and most are using them in the most distracted ways possible. Using a smartphone to make a telephone call is low on the list of uses for these devices. Most of us are texting, sending or taking pictures or videos, checking Facebook or Instagram or sending an email. These uses are even more distracting than simply talking on a cell phone.
As reported in their article, Bloomberg states that it is illegal to use a cell phone at all while driving in fifteen states and in forty-seven states it is illegal to text while driving. However, proving cell phone use after a crash is very difficult and often privacy laws prevent such.
Like most of the people on the road this weekend, I was hoping to get home quickly. What should have taken me ninety minutes ended up taking well over two hundred minutes. Stress levels began to rise until my traveling partner suggested we listen to some music. In looking through the available CD’s we found some favorites and began to enjoy the ride. Since we even found some Christmas songs, we laughed about being on the road that long.
Life is full of detours and often we cannot avoid them, just go along the best we can. We should try not to create our own distractions, though. They are enough speedbumps and potholes on our journey to challenge us. Creating more is just counter-productive. We need to improve our culture to the point where time and speed are not the primary goals. Life and living it well should be. After all, we are not here to die but to live.