Are Drivers More Distracted Now Than Before The Pandemic?
I don't remember when texting got popular, but I do remember it used to be a lot easier to do off the cuff. In the early days, when the affordable cell phone craze initially boomed, texting someone was a capital offense. You purchased "X" amount of minutes each month, and every text sent and received cost you one minute of call time. Naturally, carriers and the marketing departments included unlimited free texting to boost sales because nobody used it to communicate. Somewhere along the way, millennials grew to love the unattached text format and that became the new thing. It was and still remains the unending conversation you can participate in at your own leisure, even if it were archaic by any measure of modern methods. Instead of a qwerty keyboard, you used digits 2-0 to type out your message. Because it was tactile to your senses, it was really easy to write a text going down the road since you never had to take your eyes off the road. I think it was 2010 when I finally gave up my trusty six year old SLVR in lieu of an iPhone. Naturally, I was beguiled and amazed at how capable it was. Text, calls, email, web browser, fart pianos... it was awesome. I also remember, being so used to texting while driving at that point, the first time I nearly killed myself using that little iPhone. I was headed to a family gathering up I-35 just passed Guthrie, flirting with a girl I wanted to date at the time through clever texts. It was the way things were. Now I can't remember what the topic was, or why I was so focused on my phone, but after hitting send on a reply I looked up to see no road in front of my truck. I literally drove off the road, and nearly took a dive straight into the Cimarron River. My tires screeched for a second, then things got really bumpy and dusty, but I came to a stop before hitting a point of no return into that chocolate milk looking river of red muddy water. I swore right then and there, I would never text and drive at the same time again, and I've kept that word since. When you're not busy fiddling with your phone behind the wheel, you have a lot of time to sort of look around while you're traveling down the road. I travel Cache Road everyday, and I can't tell you how many people I see these days rolling down the street, doing ten miles per hour under the limit, faces glued to their phones as if they were driving via an app. It would almost be forgivable if they weren't holding up traffic driving so slow. Honestly, most of Cache Road is 45mph, 50mph allowable, everyone else is stuck doing 35 and I'm the jerk for honking the horn? While it's been one of those trends for a very long time, it's never quite been like it is now, at least to me. Three lanes wide, slow moving traffic because drivers are focused on their phones. It has me thinking this may be a side effect of the pandemic. Especially in those early days, nearly everything moved online and mobile optimized. I shop for groceries on my phone. I pick up those groceries on my phone. We order food, clothing, hardware, cleaning products, even potential new partners on our phones in 2021, thanks to 2020. While we still cope as best we can with the current pandemic, it seems our phones are becoming a second, only it's more dangerous. With big talks from communities about wearing masks, social distancing, vaccinations, carrying of firearms, emergency tools, being good neighbors, etc... The best thing you could probably do for your safety and the safety of anyone around you is, put down your phone while your vehicle is moving. We've had sixteen years to get used to using smartphones while driving, it's just not in the cards to be a talent of our species.