We’ve all been guilty of it.
That work email you’ve been waiting for pops up on your phone screen. Your boss texts you a question and you don’t see how you can go the next 10 minutes without texting him back. You remembered you needed to check on your company’s Instagram post that was supposed to go live at 2 p.m., and it’s 2:05.
If you were at your desk or at home, picking up and using your phone in these instances would pose no problems. But you’re not – you’re driving.
And that’s a big problem.
Last June, the Hands-Free Georgia Act went into effect, which prohibits motorists from holding cellphones, or even supporting them with any part of their bodies whatsoever. Writing, sending and reading texts while sitting behind the wheel is illegal, unless you’re communicating through hands-free technology such as your car’s Bluetooth system.
According to the Medical Association of Atlanta, drivers who text are up to eight times more likely to be involved in a crash. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds, long enough to cover a football field while driving at 55 mph, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And a driver simply talking on a cellphone is up to four times more likely to be involved in a crash.
According to the 2019 AAA Consumer Pulse Survey, 77 percent of Georgians are aware that motorists are prohibited from using handheld cellphones while driving. More than 80 percent think it is dangerous for someone who is driving to use text or email.
However, more than 60 percent of people surveyed say they still see motorists texting or emailing behind the wheel.
To raise awareness – and probably a few dollars — Cobb County police officers recently even went so far as to dress as construction workers at busy intersections in Cobb to sneakily catch (and ticket) those whose noses were behind the wheel and buried in their phones. I have to admit that I found myself searching for a song on my phone while stopped at a red light in Marietta recently and my heart skipped a beat when I saw a construction worker at the light (please don’t arrest me, Sheriff Warren!)
I used to have a Samsung phone that would automatically send people a curt but honest text that I was driving if they texted me while my car was moving. The “devil phone,” as my friends dubbed it for more reasons than its testy texts, annoyed me in that I couldn’t figure out how to turn these texts off and would cause me to miss messages. But it also made me more aware of how automatic and common distracted driving had become for me.
I have since tried to be more conscious about texting and driving and I communicate my concerns to loved ones when they find themselves using their phones while driving, but it’s difficult. In an age when so many of our job responsibilities no longer leave us when we leave the office, it becomes addicting – almost necessary, as we reason it with ourselves – to break the law.
But while an email can wait, the safety of ourselves and others cannot. Encourage your co-workers to call you if they need you while you are out of the office and find ways to become less reliant on your phone while you are driving. Having a job doesn’t matter much if you cause fatal harm to yourself and others.