I remember when I first started to drive. I didn't much like the other drivers, and I didn't understand why people honked at me for going 60 on the freeway when the speed limit is 60. I left in the wee hours of the morning to drive into Seattle for school, and packed back up in the afternoon to head to Edmonds. I was a bit of a road warrior. And I had a cell phone. Granted, it was a flip phone with no text messaging-it was a device used mostly to tell my parents "made it to school" or "on my way home". But it sat next to me in my cupholder as I drove. I wasn't supposed to talk and drive, but it wasn't illegal. My parents just weren't fans of the idea (At 27, I don't blame them. At 16, I thought they were overprotective - but Catholic guilt won the better of my inner rebellion). Fast forward 11 years, and suddenly touching your phone is illegal. And I don't entirely disagree.
I admit to thinking I'm a great driver. I was trained on a 1989 Volvo Station Wagon (and I truly believe every kid should start with a slightly aged car) and that car had it's quirks. I also juggled more freeway miles then I like to remember, and managed to eat, drink coffee, change my sweatshirt and even once I put on mascara. Today, I would assume that I've improved a little with age and 3 years driving experience in Los Angeles. And somehow I'm nervous to do more than snack or sip coffee while driving. I memorize directions, leave the house fully mascara-ed and keep at least three fingers on the wheel (kidding, it's usually a full hand - at least). So why am I so cautious these days? Well, first of all, it's illegal and I don't do law-breaking well. Secondly, I remember thinking I was invincibly perfect at 16 and, let's be honest, I probably wasn't. Inexperience and a bit of bravado made me overconfident. Throw an actual texting, internet-ing cell phone into the mix and holy cow, even I would have trouble keeping the car on the road.
An article in Insurance Journal talked a lot about talking or texting and driving. They think it's going to get worse before it gets better, because many of the young drivers are so smartphone-dependent. My concern isn't necessarily with them but with people my age. We learned to drive in that window of years where cell phones were common, but not yet outlawed. Our formative years behind the wheel came with a phone. While we may have had rules against it, it still happened (except for me, of course) and text messaging was a "thing" my senior year of high school and all through college. Does that mean that texting or talking or Google-ing behind the wheel is safe as soon as you turn 25? Of course not. I just think that maybe we should stop focusing on the teens and look at those of us that are considered grown-ups now and what behaviors we might have outside of the phone.
I'm looking at this from a slightly different angle, perhaps, and maybe those awfully effective anti-texting ads worked on me, but I am in favor of these no-phone rules. But at the same time, shouldn't we consider other distractions? I've seen people reading newspapers, eating a bagel while talking on the phone and using a butane curling iron. All of this here in Seattle, during assorted rush hours. I worry that while the no-phone rules are important and can be effective, that maybe all of the other distractions aren't being considered. Could we be placing too much of the distraction pie on phones and not enough on driving-while-styling or the snack-and-go? Maybe the problem isn't with the rules we make, but with the behaviors we teach young kids who become drivers. Just a little something to think about.