With the spookiest time of year just around the corner, there doesn’t seem to be a shortage of scary stories. So, let me tell you one of the most terrifying of them all:
You’re in the car with your best friend. They’re driving. A song on their Spotify playlist ends. You assume the driver, your friend, will allow the playlist to do its job and play the next song without much thought. And for a second, that’s what happens until the driver picks up their phone and starts swiping through songs.
“What are you doing? Get off your phone.” You say to your friend.
“I’m not even looking at it.” They respond.
Time passes, and you watch your friend swipe through their playlist, searching for that ‘perfect’ song. Each time they look at their phone, you count.
One… Two… Three…
Before you know it, they have looked away from the road 26 times in three minutes.
Finally, your friend settles on a song and puts their phone down.
“You looked at your phone 26 times, you know.”
“No, I didn’t. I never even looked at it.”
Now, that’s scary.
We live in a time where people feel they can have their phone in one hand, the steering wheel in the other, and admit they never looked at the screen. This is simply not true. Subconsciously, the driver will inevitably glance at their phone. The frightening part is that the driver may not be lying- they may be in an altered state of awareness and honestly cannot recognize their mistake.
Distracted Driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), “is any activity that diverts attention from driving, including talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system – anything that takes your attention from the task of safe driving” (NHTSA, Distracted Driving, 2020).
This story, albeit terrifying, is true. This happened to me two weeks ago with my best friend. And yes, they really did look at their phone 26 times. What is sad is this happens to me (a 24-year-old) ALL THE TIME. My family and friends – people I love – have fallen victim to distracted driving. Shamefully, though, so have I. We live in a world where we want things done now. If we don’t want to listen to a song, we’ll change it until we find one that’s tolerable. If we’re hungry, we’ll take a hand off the wheel to eat. If we get a text, we’ll take our eyes off the road to read the message. Without much thought, we make choices that put our lives and others in danger.
It only takes a second for something to go wrong- the driver in front of you slams on their breaks, a deer jumps out, or you hit a patch of black ice. If your phone is in your hand, your reaction time decreases, putting your life and others at
risk. The NHTSA states,
“Texting is the most alarming distraction. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed. You cannot drive safely unless the task of driving has your full attention. Any non-driving activity you engage in is a potential distraction and increases your risk of crashing.” (NHSTA - Distracted Driving, 2020)
Chances are, if you aren’t doing this, someone you love is. So let’s make this Halloween a little less scary: Make a commitment to put down your phone and end distracted driving.
Frenchtown Community Coalition
The Frenchtown Community Coalition (FCC) is a Drive Safe Missoula Partner and they specialize in underage substance abuse prevention. They are a coalition located in Frenchtown, MT. Since being established in 2008, the goals of the coalition are to strengthen community collaboration and support local efforts to prevent youth substance use. Through extensive youth engagement and collaboration between community sector representatives, the FCC will work to reduce risk factors and promote protective factors for the youth of Frenchtown.
Frenchtown Comunity Coalition Mission To build and maintain a supportive environment for collaborative and proactive work to help prevent substance abuse and risk behaviors, including but not limited to alcohol and marijuana, and grow healthy and resilient children in the Frenchtown Community.