Lately, everywhere you go, everyone is hyper focused on their electronic devices and not their immediate surroundings. People are walking in parking lots, across roads, in the aisle of the store, all while looking down at their phone texting or surfing, oblivious to who or what is crossing their path. Even scarier are drivers leaning casually back in the driver seat with their phone glued to their ear as they blow through red lights and cut corners while turning.
Distracted drivers with heads down texting on phones while barreling down the highway in a car or SUV weighing anywhere from 1800 to 3000 pounds, which makes their vehicle a lethal weapon. You can tell by the white glow of the smartphone encasing their face as you pass them praying they will maintain the boundaries of their lane.
How can we play games online or surf the internet so efficiently yet barely manage a conversation at the dinner table with our family, friends, or coworkers? I watched six people at one table eating dinner while totally engrossed in their online life, completely ignoring the people sitting next to and across from them.
By far the scariest scene I witnessed to date happened as I left work one afternoon. A young woman talking passionately into her cell phone which was glued to her left ear. She was almost dragging a small toddler along on the right side. As she steps off the side walk into the street she barely looks up and there is no pause in her conversation. She is outside the cross walk, only half way across the first lane when she stops dead in her tracks to yell into her phone.
I see a pickup truck turning onto the road less than 50 feet away and the truck is picking up speed as the driver completes the turn. He is driving directly toward the two and I realize he is not looking at the road either. I holler very sharply and loudly, “ma’am, you’re in the street!” She looks my way puzzled as to why I would be hollering at her. I point to her left and yell, “hello there is a truck coming toward you!” It did not seem to register but at least she was moving out of harm’s way.
This made me wonder how technology is affecting our parenting skills when we are with our children at the park, store, or walking across a street. I imagine a young parent sitting on a park bench during a warm and sunny spring day as their children play nearby. As the parent or caregiver surfs local news stories, and responds to a couple of text messages suddenly realizing several minutes have passed in the blink of an eye. Looking up they quickly scan the park frantically searching for their child or children who is no longer with in sight.
When we drive and use our phones we are teaching our children this behavior is acceptable. How can we expect them NOT to do the same thing when they get their driver’s license? Even if your children are not in the car with you and you are texting or talking you are driving while distracted and this behavior places everyone on the road at risk.
Can you live with the consequences if your distracted driving hurts or kills someone? Is the technology worth the risk? Do you take calls or respond to texts when you are driving with your children? If you participate in a car pool situation have you discussed whether other drivers are distracted while driving your child around?
Technology is wonderful, especially in the case of an Amber Alert where getting information out to the public when a child has been kidnapped requires accuracy and speed. The purpose of an Amber Alert is to have as many eyes looking for the abducted child, the abductor and the vehicle used in the abduction. Time is a child’s worst enemy when abducted or missing. Amber Alerts save lives.
Yet, that same technology that saves lives can end a life when it distracts us from the task at hand. It is imperative that we are aware of our surroundings at all times and that we teach our children to be alert.
Our primary function as a parent is to keep our children safe, not talk to our sister or friend or play games. When we are distracted the safety of everyone is at risk. No one is so important that he or she cannot wait to answer a text or make a phone call until arriving safely at their destination.
In the end only one question matters, can you live with the potentially deadly consequences of your choice? If the answer is no, then make a promise to yourself and your loved ones to keep your phone in your purse or pocket until you arrive alive at your destination or you can pull over safely.