I have always had an invincibility problem. Like, I have believed I was invincible to a greater extent than just my youth commanded. I mean, kids think they are invincible. And teenagers? Forget about it. Even young adults feel invincible. If they are relatively healthy and have healthy families and live in a safe place, I’d say that most people feel pretty invincible for a long time.
I think my personal sense of invincibility has lasted longer than it should, probably as a defense mechanism. There are actually so many things that could go wrong that it feels safer and less scary to honestly believe that nothing will. And, to that end, I have engaged in some really dumb behavior. Most notably: texting and driving.
It is seriously the stupidest thing to do. Is there really anything so important that it has to be communicated while you’re driving? And if hearing about accidents on the news pretty much daily isn’t enough, I also drive by a crashed car on a local high school lawn every morning with warning signs about drunk and distracted driving. Yet, still. Still I have always felt like nothing would happen to me. I am a “good” texter. I don’t have to look down that often. I know just when to look up. And despite several near-misses, I still always believed that I’d never really crash because of texting. And, knock wood, I never have.
In the past several months, I have made the decision to only text at stop lights or to pull over when I have something I need to text, especially when I have The Who in the car with me. I am proud to say that, despite how seductive having my phone in the car with me is, I have not broken this rule. But on my own? When I’m alone in the car? I have not been so smart.
Yesterday, a friend told me about an accident he witnessed as he was driving southbound on 95 near Philly during the very beginning of the afternoon rush. On the northbound side, a car caught his eye. Twice, the car drifted slightly and then pulled back into the lane — telltale texting-while-driving behavior. And when he looked closer (which he could do because both cars were in the left lanes of their respective sides of the highway) he saw that, indeed, the driver of that car had his phone in his hand. The third time he drifted, the car ever so slightly tapped the wheel of a passing tractor trailer, spinning the car around several times and knocking the tractor trailer completely on its side.
The accident was reported on the local news and it was all about the “snarled” traffic, but the real story is how it happened. But that’s not the story being reported because no one knows that this was a texting-while-driving accident. No one except the driver who was texting, my friend who saw it happen, and maybe a handful of other people who saw it, too. But it wasn’t reported that way and it made me wonder: how many accidents happen every day that are the result of distracted driving and are not reported as such? It put my invincibility complex into stark relief. It happens all the time; it has to. It happens to all kinds of people and it will happen to me.
I’m keeping my phone in my trunk when I drive now, whether The Who is with me or not. I don’t have the willpower to keep my hands off of it if it’s right beside me. I hope you’ll do the same thing.