'Distracted Driving - My Story' by Brittany Larsen

Technology. Increasing the conveniences of living one day at a time. The first official cell phone was invented in 1973. However, it is unlikely that Motorola, the company responsible for developing the world’s first cell phone, would ever foresee that this same invention would be directly responsible for automobile accidents causing the deaths of nearly 3,000 individuals and the injuries of approximately 425,000 individuals annually in the United States, according to the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. There are numerous tasks that I attempt to multitask at on a routine basis which I feel are essential to saving time. Unfortunately, this included checking my electronic mail, chatting on the phone, texting, and shopping online while driving. This was a negative habit that I maintained for many years. It got to the point where passengers, including individuals of my own age group, would routinely scold me after witnessing me paying excessive attention to my phone and, in turn, neglecting to monitor the road. When I would use my phone, it was not too infrequent for me to swerve into the other lane albeit for a split second. However, the fact that I primarily lived in small towns contributed to the lax attitude I had about the utilization of my phone while behind the wheel due bouts of traffic being minimally sporadic or absent all together.

I eliminated this wicked habit on April 13, 2012; Friday the 13th, coincidentally. I was attending graduate school at the time in addition to being in the process of completing an eleven-month long internship as well as obtaining two part-time jobs during this time. In short, I was a very busy being. I was in the midst of completing my demanding program regimen, despite the frequency of multitasking I engaged in, habitually found myself having limited time to complete tasks. Unfortunately, I experienced a schedule conflict as I was preparing for a thirteen-hour drive in order to attend a mandatory annual national conference relating to my professional field; at the same time, I was asked by my boss at one of my part-time jobs to attend a conference call which was to last two hours and my boss warned that this call was not optional. In this situation, I felt I had no choice but to attend the conference call while driving. I found myself unable to focus my full attention on either tasks because I was trying to navigate through an unfamiliar road while attempting to retain most of the information from the conference call and contribute to the call the best I could. This particular road was very windy, hilly, and seeing wildlife cross the street was not an infrequent occurrence.

As I was continuing to drive, I was unexpectedly asked a question by one of the attendees on the conference call. I was distracted, but averted my attention specifically to the conference call in order to provide a sufficient answer to the others on the call. I was asked a question from a paper I had written and was in the process of attempting to download this document on my smartphone in order to refer back to the paper. While I was searching for the document, my car swerved to the opposite side of the road. This road was fairly isolated and I, as a result, was not too concerned at first glance. At second glance, I noticed a large buck staring at me but failed to react quickly enough. I heard the loud thud followed by the screeching of my tires and felt the violent jolt just before I lost control of both my mind and my car simultaneously. I screamed uncontrollably. I looked back to see the large dead buck in the road and attempted to park my totaled car before losing control of my senses. I bawled. Every professional on the conference call was confused, concerned, and frightening as I continued to be overwhelmed by shock and emotion and, as a result, unable to articulate to them what had just occurred. I unexpectedly started bawling and could not halt. In retrospect, I believe I was crying because I was above all else embarrassed. I had gotten into a car accident during a conference call. This was my first car accident I had experienced and was in no way prepared to deal with a situation such as this.

It took every fiber of my being to recollect myself enough to communicate the unfortunate event to everyone on the call. After a unanimous express of great concern from the group, I apologized and terminated the call early. I then continued to bawl, fueled with the knowledge that I had totaled my car because my attempt to multitask and overwhelming schedule and I had no one else to blame for it except myself. I was six hours from the comfort of my college town and seven hours away from the mandatory conference. I was stuck in the middle of an unfamiliar road. Luckily, however, I purchased a new vehicle the year prior and was thus paying for full coverage automobile insurance with road side assistance. To add to my luck, my cellphone had strong reception in this area despite appearing to be rural. I dialed road side assistance and requested a tow truck paid for by my insurance. I was able to rent a vehicle and drive this to the conference on time. Low and behold, the conclusion was still positive. I am still ashamed of the fact that I was willing to put my life as well as the lives of others in danger over a conference call. This situation potentially could have had a much worse ending. However, on this day, I made a vow to never, ever use my smartphone on the road again. And I truly never did it again! I now scold my friends for using their cell phones while driving and always tell them this story of how I almost died trying to multitask. Some of my friends chose to ignore my advice, but others abruptly halt their cell phone usage and just focus on the road. Perhaps my friends that choose to ignore my advice will someday have an experience similar to my own and be prompted to put the phone down while driving from that day forth. I know I have.