Every day on the streets, I witness people who are so engrossed in their phones that they fail to notice an obstacle, be it a pole, a moving person or a red light. If slow-moving pedestrians are missing out on their surroundings, how much more dangerous is it to text while driving 50kms / hour or more?
A US survey conducted by AT&T last year found that 49 percent of adults and 43 percent of teens admitted to texting and driving.
Australia is in no better position, with an alarming 45 per cent of Australians who confessed they were texting while driving, and 30 per cent of these drivers believing they are capable of doing both at once.
For the record, using a mobile phone while driving has been linked to reduced awareness of surroundings and increased reaction time, amongst other symptoms.
Not just a problem behind the wheel
Clearly, there is something wrong with the way we use our phones. And this is not just a problem with driving. The issue comes from our relationship with phones and technology in general.
I am amazed at how many couples or groups of people solely focus on their phones, at the expense of the people around them in cafes or restaurants.
You think that’s bad? A while ago, Craig wrote an article on people who bring their phones in the bedroom, with mind-blowing (and terrifying) numbers.
It seems to me that we are imprisoned by our lack of focus. We MUST reply to messages immediately. We HAVE to post stuff on Facebook to get some feedback.
Whether it is related to the theory of variable reward, or to the Fear Of Missing Out, we have a hard time letting go of our phones, and fail to notice what is actually happening around us.
As a response to that feeling of being unable to “tune out”, here and there we can find some memes, videos and whatnot that put a finger on the issue. Despite the touch of hypocrisy that comes with this type of content (it is meant to be viewed and shared on social media…) all it does is state the obvious without offering any kind of solution.
Then came #X
#X is an initiative by AT&T to encourage drivers not to text while driving.
With support from Demi Lovato and more than 5 million people who pledged to quit text-driving, it was a success in social-media. Several videos came on YouTube to explain the (unexpected) benefits of #X. You can view one of those videos just below.
The idea is simple: before you drive, send “#X” to your mates and family to let them know you’ll be driving and unable to reply. This allows you to focus on driving, and others to be patient and wait until your answer comes before they freak out.
Interestingly, there is nothing much to #X. It is but a very basic tool for people to keep their hands off their phones, without feeling pressured to reply in the next 5 seconds. Nothing fancy there.
And maybe that’s all we need: a means for us to tell the digital world: “hold it, I’m in the middle of something”.
Technology is now helping us escape technology. And things have come full circle.