Photo by Matthew T Raider “Car Accident From Texting and Driving in Texas”
A couple of weeks ago, I was rear-ended by a driver who was texting. I felt immediate relief that the accident hadn’t been worse and that my kids weren’t in the car with me. But then I started to think about all the people who haven’t been so lucky—all the people who have died, or lost a child, as a result of mindless cell phone use.
I’m diligent about only looking at my phone when parked or at a red light, but I (once again) made a more serious vow: While I’m driving, the phone will stay in my bag at all times. And I made this vow thinking I would probably break it at some point. I was determined not to, but still, I wondered how long this vow would last.
And then I thought, What if there were something that reminded us of the purpose (and importance!) of not using our phones when we get behind the wheel? Here’s my crazy idea:
Persuade a company to make a simple zip phone case emblazoned with “I’m Saving Lives.” It would be free and available to anyone who wanted one. When you get in your car, the phone gets zipped up—and you’re reminded of why. And you feel good about yourself because, well, you’re saving lives! The case tells you so each time. And in every moment you reflexively reach for your phone, you see the reminder, I’m Saving Lives, preventing you from mindlessly entering the digital world. You have to make the conscious decision that this text, email, or call is really worth opening the case for.
A case probably isn’t the ultimate solution. Eventually, car companies must find a way to disable texting, email, and browsing on phones while a person is driving. But in the meantime, responsible people need to do something to help bring down the number of phone-related accidents and deaths. There’s no question that if we all put our phones in closed cases while driving, many lives would be saved.
1. 16,000 drivers were killed in connection with handset use from 2001 to 2007. That’s more than six deaths every day from cell phone related accidents. —American Journal of Public Health [And we know the numbers have increased dramatically in the last 8 years.]
2. Texting while driving causes an estimated 1.6 million accidents a year and 11 teen deaths EVERY DAY. —TextingAndDrivingSafety.com (May 2015)
3. Texting while driving makes you about six times as likely to cause an accident as does driving intoxicated.—TextingAndDrivingSafety.com (May 2015)
4. Cellphones cause 26% of the nation’s car accidents.—USA Today (October 2014)
5. Beyond texting, nearly 4-in-10 smartphone users tap into social media while driving. Almost 3-in-10 surf the net. And surprisingly, 1-in-10 video chat.—NY Times (May 2015)
Why a Case?
Within a few hours of my accident and taking my vow, I found myself reaching for my phone at a stoplight. If it was difficult for me to break this habit immediately after an accident, it seems hopeless to rely on my inner wisdom in the bustle of everyday life. If we’re not being forced, I think we need something to remind us to not pick up the phone after the shock of an accident (or heartbreaking Werner Hertzog video) wears off. Something that looks right back at us and says, “Really? Do you really need this phone right now? Are you willing to break your I’m Saving Lives vow for it?”
I made myself a prototype to see if it would work—my phone would stay in the case as long as I was driving, no matter how long the signal, or how slow the traffic. If I really needed to look at my phone, I would have to pull over and park. The surprising thing was that I found I actually enjoyed driving (and life overall) more once I got through the initial detox phase. After about two days of being separated from my phone in the car, I realized I had been living with a pervasive sense of stress. I thought it was relieving my anxiety to “get some work done” while I was in the car, but, strangely, it turned out it was adding to it. For a working mother of two small children, there is always more to be done, but it turns out that I feel calmer across the day when I don’t multitask all the time. I learned this only when I literally forced myself to stop. We know that constant interruption degrades our quality of life, which is exactly what our phones are doing. They interrupt the flow of thought, the flow of conversation, the flow of almost every experience in the moment… So it’s not surprising that banning cell phone use in certain areas of our lives, although difficult to do, can actually improve our overall well-being. And banning cell phone use in the car would actually save lives—not only the lives of those who won’t survive the next crash, but of those who survive and have to live the rest of their lives knowing that they killed someone’s child… over something like “b there in 5. see u soon!”
If anyone is interested in moving forward with producing an I’m Saving Lives case through an existing company or design, please send serious offers to: firstname.lastname@example.org