The first of July marked Indiana joining 22 other states that require phones to be in hands-free mode. Now here in Indiana, you can officially be stopped by police, fined $500, and potentially stripped of your license for not using your phone hands-free. The bottom line is you cannot have the phone in your hand while driving. I am more than ok with this law, and it’s another important reminder to me personally to be more diligent about not engaging in distracted driving. I know I am not the only one, but I also know that I can only be in control of myself. Ultimately, we all must stop the excuses and get it together because it’s worth it; saving lives is always worth it.
I am very guilty of looking at my phone while driving. When I hear a new e-mail chime, or receive a new text alert, I feel like I am programmed to want to see what or who it is from immediately. I remember one time flying down Route 40 in Merrillville while heading up to visit my family. I had Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy” blaring on the radio and heard my phone chirp, so I instinctively looked to read the text that had come through. I did not reply, but I had the phone in my hand and was alternating between dancing (because how do you not dance to Prince songs?!), looking at the road and viewing the text. The officer in the lane next to me was NOT happy, especially because I didn’t even see him or hear him signaling me to get off my phone. OH. MY. GOSH. He was so angry, rightfully so. He never pulled me over or gave me a ticket; he activated his siren and adamantly and vigorously made gestures at me about getting off my phone. To this day, I will never forget that, and I am glad he busted me because I deserved it. It was awful of me.
Over time, I knew that checking my phone while driving needed to stop, but it was always so tempting! But it is not ok to give in as I have done many times. And sometimes, I get lost or need a detour due to an accident, so I activate my Maps app while driving instead of pulling over and figuring things out. Why? Because I, along with so many others in our quick-fix society, am programmed to “go, go, go.” We are so used to running hard and trying to find the most efficient shortcuts, but shortcuts can sometimes produce negative results. How many times have you seen a car that had randomly veered and crashed off the road? Or rear-end accidents that seemingly could have been avoided?
Hands down (pun intended), we as responsible citizens and drivers must make this a priority. We have to train ourselves to be hands-free while driving, not just because of fear of being pulled over or fined, but for fear and concern. We should want to look out for others on the road as well as ourselves and the people in our vehicle.
As I reflect, I can think of many times where family or friends told me they drove through a stop sign accidentally or could not remember if the last light they went through was green or yellow. Now, there have been moments I have also been like that without even being on my phone. Isn’t that scary? Think about how many other people out there are doing the same exact thing while you are on the road by yourself or with your children or loved ones. Think about how many horror stories you have heard on the news about unnecessary accidents occurring due to distracted driving. It makes me cringe.
There is a reason there have been campaigns on TV about ending distracted driving, and about doing your part to stop the act as well as encouraging others to get off their phones while driving. It can wait. We all need to focus on driving safely.
Overall, I did not need this news to know that distracted driving is terrible; however, seeing Indiana enact the law that nearly half of the other states already had in place, really activated a light bulb for me. I was sharply jolted and hugely reminded that I have so much to be grateful for, and I don’t want to risk my life or the lives of others just to check my phone.