Just Put the Phone Down, Texting Can Wait

I must confess that I have a problem. Like many others in our generation, I am a slave to my cell phone. The moment I sit down in class, I whip my handheld lifeline out and start texting. While I’m walking from one place to another, I’m either catching up on calls or fiercely gripping my phone in case I don’t feel the vibration in my bag. I am addicted and much too dependent on my cell phone. Without it, I would sadly be lost. Waiting for class to start the other day, I realized how disgusting this addiction actually was, and thus looked around me to see what everyone else was doing. To my dismay, I found 7 out of 8 students vigorously typing away on their QWERTY-pads and engaged in some texting conversation.

When did we become like this? When did we become slaves to our phones? How did text messaging become so much more important than school, or better yet — the lives of other people?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2008, nearly 6,000 people died in crashes involving distracted driving due to cell phone use. Those 6,000 victims included daughters, sisters, mothers, wives, sons, brothers, fathers and husbands. And for what cause did they die? They died simply because an irresponsible driver just couldn’t wait. After all, replying to a text was worth risking the life of some innocent pedestrian or driver. Like Oprah Winfrey said in her recent “Dnt Txt n Drv” article for the New York Times, these deaths are “senseless and stupid. How many people have to die before we get it?”

It’s not like we are ignorant to the dangers of distracted driving. I’m sure we all remember our Drivers Ed teachers emphasizing the ten-and-two driving position. And if not, most of us probably recall our parents’ incessant nagging to keep both hands on the wheel and “be a dedicated driver.” Though I found the constant reminders to be somewhat annoying a couple of years ago, I’ve realized how important they are now, in the age of unlimited text messaging in this technological world.

When I’m stuck in traffic or waiting at a red light, I can’t deny the temptation to check my phone. Though I myself know that it is illegal to do so, I persuade myself that it’s only for a second or two. I mean, no harm done, right? After all, it’s an important text. Wrong! It takes less than a second to get in an accident, or even worse — to take someone’s life. I don’t want to be responsible for the death of a daughter or son solely because my text message just couldn’t wait.

This is saying something. I used to be an avid multi-tasker when it came to driving. I hated the idea of just sitting there in my car. Instead, I must shamefully admit that I saw driving as an opportunity to eat breakfast, put on my shoes, refine my studying or catch up on phone calls. After thinking about this, I’ve realized that this is one of the most selfish things I could do. I mean, it’s implying that this text message is important enough that it is worth the life of another person.

So, for the sake of your own friends and family, give it up. That text message can wait. It is not more precious than the life of another person. If you absolutely can’t bear hearing your phone go off without feeling tempted, then spare yourself the trouble and just put it on silent. No matter what it is, it can wait. And if it absolutely just can’t wait, then pull over. If it’s not worth pulling over for, then it’s obviously not worth checking your phone while driving. Like Oprah said, “Because even though we think we can handle using our cell phone in the car, the loss of thousands of lives has shown we can’t.”

We may not be able to cure the millions of victims from cancer or AIDS. We can’t prevent earthquakes and we may never be able to achieve world peace. However, as Oprah says, this is something that we can help. We can change this today.

Nicole Chao is a second-year biological sciences major. She can be reached at chaon@uci.edu.