It’s that season again.
Snow is on the ground and so Whitehorse drivers seem hell-bent on re-establishing themselves as the worst in Canada.
What makes us more inclined to gun it through an amber light when the intersection’s iced up?
Why does tailgating seem to make more sense when visibility is limited by ice fog?
And why do we choose to text-and-drive more when the roads are in their most dangerous state?
I’ve seen a ton of people steering with their elbows while they thumb-tap out messages on a cell phone lately.
And for what? To share some irrelevant little messages at the risk of a catastrophic, even deadly, accident?
Yeah, that make sense.
Except for the fact it’s a recipe for instantly turning LOL into TTYL.
We don’t seem to understand that almost a quarter of accidents in 2011 involved cell phones.
Texting while you drive makes it 23 times more likely that you’ll have an accident.
That’s about that same as a person who has a blood-alcohol concentration of .15 — roughly six or seven drinks in your belly.
Still, 77% of young adults are delusional enough to believe that they can drive safely while they text.
But we can’t blame kids because they’re learning this practice from us.
Almost half of kids have been in a car when a parent texted while driving.
For kids life is a giant classroom where parents are the greatest teachers of all.
So just one quick text message by mom at a traffic light validates texting and driving for every child in the car forever.
Of course, the Yukon has a law that threatens stiff penalties for texting and driving.
If you’re caught — and who gets caught, righ?
But it’s a technical problem? Maybe there’s a techical solution?
I’ve heard of a bunch of these.
They range from secret cameras in the car so you can observe your kids while they drive to special apps that make your phone bark at you when you text and drive.
The truth, though, is it’s not up to politicians, cops, or technology to save us from ourselves.
There’s really only one viable long-term solution: don’t be an idiot.
Because when you text and drive, that’s what you are: an idiot.
Every person who owns a cell phone in the Yukon is smart enough to know better (at least I hope so).
But for some reason, putting on a seat belt seems to mean taking off our thinking cap when it comes to cell phones.
That attitude is tragic because we all hold a social contract to contribute to public safety.
Just because there’s not a cop on every corner or an app to control our will doesn’t mean we can ignore the obligations we hold to the other people around us.
If you have kids, you hold the greatest responsibility of all.
What could possibly be important enough on your cell phone that you’d risk the safety and well being of the most vulnerable people you know?
Nothing. Absolutely nothing is more important than keeping kids safe, especially in a motor vehicle.
So put your cell phone away when you’re operating a vehicle.
On a broader scale, if other people see you texting and driving, that contributes to a social validation of the practice.
That’s the pathetic way our little brains work: monkey see, monkey do.
So keep it in your pocket.
Of course, if you’re brave enough, when you know that someone else texts while they drive, let them know how irresponsible they’re being.
You don’t have to say much, just a simple sentence or two. Like, “You know, you really shouldn’t be texting while you drive.”
I know from experience that most people will shrug off the risk when you mention it to them.
But over time, just as we’ve stigmatized the practice of drinking and driving, we can do the same with texting and driving.
Maybe, though, you’re one of those people who is just too cool.
You believe that you exist outside of the social norms or the risks and dangers don’t apply to you.
In the long term, you need some serious help.
For now though, focus on the most shallow reason of all for not texting and driving: you might get a ticket.
The holiday season is on us and the cops are more alert than ever. They’ll probably get you.
Think hard on this, though. Sure, you can pay off a ticket.
But a ticket is nothing in comparison to causing an accident that kills someone. That’s a debt you can never repay.
So choose not to be an idiot. When you’re driving, put away your cell phone and don’t take it out again until your vehicle is off the roadway and safely parked.
Because it’s one thing to be an idiot. It’s another thing entirely to be an idiot who kileld someone.
Originally published in the Yukon News on Friday, November 23, 2012.