I spend a good amount of time on the road and I am continuously shocked by how many young people are driving down the highway with both hands on their phone and their eyes staring squarely down at their phone. This, in spite of a massive campaign against distracted driving and a collective conscience which agrees this is a miserable idea. My guess is that most of them either know someone or know of someone who has been in an accident caused by distracted driving. Yet an incredible number continue to text and drive. Why?
We have programmed them that way
I cannot help but think this is the result of an overdeveloped need for immediate gratification and an unquenchable thirst for positive affirmation.
For years, we’ve told ourselves and we’ve told our children, “You don’t have to wait. You can have it now.” It’s not just microwave ovens and Jimmy Johns that have promoted this myth. It’s credit cards, sales that last “one day only”, sub-prime loans, TiVo, made-for-TV pressure cookers, and even fast passes at Disney. Listen to any protest march. Regardless of what they are fighting for, part of their war chant is always, “When do we want it? NOW!” We’ve lost hold of the truth that “anything worth having is worth waiting for.”
Is it any surprise, then, that we cannot wait to check our cell phones. We want that message, and we want it now!
Further, we’ve created in our children and in ourselves an affirmation addiction. We stopped declaring winners and losers in athletic contests because we wanted everyone to “feel” good about their performance. We crave the dopamine hit that results from getting a like or share on Facebook. We are creating “safe spaces” at Universities for students who need to hide from challenging or frightening ideas. Remember when we used to say, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me.” We actually believed that was a true statement. Now it’s considered insensitive and hurtful. Only a cretan would be willing to admit they think it’s true that “words can never hurt me.”
By feeding this craving for affirmation, we’ve become people who cannot even drive down the road for a few minutes without receiving affirmation from a snapchat, text, retweet or like. We must constantly check our phones to see who is giving us positive affirmation right now. If you aren’t sure about this, find a place where people stand in line. Just watch and count the phones.
How do we stop texting and driving?
The solution is NOT more billboards, commercials or school assemblies. Ironically, the solution will also not come quickly. All good things are worth waiting for, and most of the time, they require waiting.
We must begin to teach our children that they are not as important as they think they are. We must be willing to say things like, “That’s not really a problem.” and (even harder), “I guess that wasn’t good enough. You’ll have to try harder next time.”
We must stop the gravy train. Nothing in life is free (despite what every political candidate tells us) and it is that very lie which encourages our appetite for immediate gratification. Delay purchases. Choose contentment over accumulation. Say, “no” sometimes to your children (or at the very least say, “not now”).
People who don’t text and drive have two characteristics.
1) They can wait to see what their phone has to say to them.
2) They don’t find their self-worth from a touchscreen.
Maybe if we start there, we can fix the problem.