Texting and driving is exceedingly dangerous. There are numerous studies that prove it. Studies or not, it’s obvious. No matter how skilled you think you are at texting, at driving, or both, you cannot safely do both at the same time. (And texting is just the poster child for the many dangerous things that can be done with a smartphone—checking e-mail, surfing the web, etc. When I say texting, I’m including all of these and more.)

I do not text while driving, but I used to text (or do other smartphone activities) when my car wasn’t moving, for example, when I was at a red light or stuck in traffic.

I know I am not alone. I see other people do it all the time. And I read this in a piece in the Washington Post:

Upon arriving at a red light, drivers apply the brakes, pick up their mobile devices, and begin reading and sending e-mails. The signal to resume driving comes not from the green light but from some motorist in the back tapping politely on the horn.

It is not uncommon to drive up to a light and discover several vehicles still immobile because no one has yet noticed the green. A horn tap will cause the procession slowly to restart, as drivers, one hand on the wheel and one holding their devices, type a few last words. Or sentences.

Now, thanks to a 21-day focus, I’ve broken that bad habit.

Here’s what made me realize what I was doing was wrong:

It has happened to most of us, maybe all of us… You’re sitting in the right lane at a red light. There is a left turn lane and there are cars waiting for a left turn signal. You aren’t paying complete attention for whatever reason—simply daydreaming, for example. The people in the left lane start moving. You aren’t focused on them, but you sense it as your brain detects movement out of the corner of your eye. Instinctively, your foot comes off the brake, your car starts to slowly roll, and just as you are about to hit the gas you realize that your light is still red. You quickly slam on the brakes, your heart is racing, and you thank goodness you stopped before something bad had happened.

That had happened to me periodically over the years. Then, a few months ago, it happened to me because I was looking at my smartphone at a red light. And that was that.

I had previously thought that looking at the phone was okay when I wasn’t moving. What harm could come of it, I figured. What’s the worst case? Maybe some impatient person behind me would blow their horn to get me to move when the light changed?

Well, I was wrong on all counts. First, the worst case is what didn’t happen but could have when I started into the intersection on instinct. Second, I realized that it’s not the guy behind me blowing the horn who was impatient, it was me. I didn’t have the patience to wait until I got where I was going before looking at my smartphone.

It’s amazing how time works with tasks you have to do. It can easily happen that if you have few things to do at work one day, somehow that stretches over eight hours. Yet, if you have tons of things to do, you somehow fit them in within an eight-hour workday.

It was the same experience for me when I stopped looking at the smartphone at red lights. Somehow, I’m still getting to all of those e-mails. And as the 21 days went by and I got used to my new habit, I felt less and less stress about not looking at the phone, to the point where it now seems normal to not need to see what’s going on until I have parked my car (or later.)

The other result is that I am now able to experience a little more down time—that feeling we have so little of in these always-on, always-connected days. I am spending more time in the present moment—a good place to be at any time, and especially critical when I am behind the wheel.

So many people continue to text and drive (or other dangerous distracted driving behaviors.) If you are one of those people—even you “just do it at red lights”—please stop. If you know other people who do it, please beg them to stop.

Stay safe,


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