We tend to live in a local culture that takes a rules-are-meant-to-be-broken approach. It only counts if you get caught.
This cannot be truer when it comes to driving. In 2016, Malta lost over twenty people to road accidents, and this number does not include those who got seriously injured and were left with life-long disabilities and brain injuries. Some accidents are just that – accidents due to circumstances. However, preventable accidents are a cause of over-speeding, intoxication, sleep deprivation and distracted driving.
Image source: Maltatoday
Living with short distances from one place to another, we always believe we can make it home. Yet, it takes an average of three seconds of distraction for a driver to have an accident. The serious risks of drinking and driving seem to have begun to seep into our minds, particularly when we hear the way foreigners react to our laid back attitude towards it. Yet using a mobile phone when driving is all too common in Malta. Driving and texting is actually more dangerous then drunk driving, according to research.
Our recent traffic situation doesn’t help. Moving a quarter inch every two minutes makes us believe we can take our eyes off the road long enough to send a text message. Traffic leaves us bored and urging for entertainment. Living in an age where screens are constantly available and ready to provide us with instant entertainment, it takes some self-discipline to resist scrolling the net. Not to mention the use of online maps to find a location or to text a friend that we’re late or lost.
In October 2016, newspapers reported the imprisonment of Tomasz Kroker who killed a family of four whilst driving a truck and scrolling through music on his phone. Previous to the accident, Kroker signed a declaration to never use his phone while driving. While laws are necessary and a definite deterrent, people still tend to risk it. Recently, my friends and I had a conversation about this. We easily recognised that it was dangerous and not something we wanted to do. We promised each other not to use our phones while driving. I didn’t want my name on their phone when they had an accident. We found that acknowledging it openly helped us keep each other in check. If our hand reached out for our phone whilst in the car, we thought of our conversation and resisted.
Let’s look at practical and helpful ways to avoid driving and using your phone:
Talk about it
Tell your friends that you want to be more careful and ask them to help you. No one would want you or others to get hurt, and they’ll certainly support you. Similarly, behave the same way with them. Reassure them they don’t have to rush, in order to let them drive safely. When you know they’re speaking to you and driving, tell them you’ll talk later. They’ll be more likely to mirror you, eventually.
Out of sight, out of mind
When you get into your car, put your phone on silent and move it out of reach. In the glove compartment, side of the door on the opposite side or in your handbag. You can’t react if you don’t know what’s happening on your phone.
Enjoy the silence
Whilst driving, remind yourself that this is your opportunity to be silent, to think and to be present. Appreciate the guilt-free quiet time. How can you use this time inside your mind?
Image source: Maplefarmbedandbreakfast
Invest in gadgets
See what the latest technology has to offer to equip your car with safe ways to communicate in appropriate moments.
Get some new CD’s or audio-books. Think of ideas, sing out loud or chant your gratitude mantras. Learn to entertain yourself when in traffic.
When you need to call or text, pull over. It’s much more comfortable to have your mind at rest, to concentrate on your communication before continuing. In reality, it’s such an obvious choice, yet we rarely do it.
It can wait. Put it into perspective. If it can’t, pull over and give it the attention it needs.
Most of all, remember that you don’t need to be constantly available and accessible to others. A break from your phone could be very welcome. Mobile phones didn’t exist a while back, and the earth still turned on its axis, meetings were still held and people were also late. No one can disagree with the logic of not using your phone whilst driving. It may mean being more accountable by leaving on time or researching the location before, but bring yourself back to the bigger picture – you don’t want to hurt somebody or yourself. There are real risks involved with distracted driving. Don’t become a statistic quoted in an article, and don’t make anybody become that either.