Tuesday, April 30, 2013


I remember when I was sixteen and I had to take my driver's ed classes. We watched these terrible films (they were films!) about car crashes and teens making bad choices. And then we got this huge lecture about wearing seatbelts. Seatbelts? We thought. Who wears seatbelts! Nerd alert.

No one in my time wore seatbelts. When I was a kid we would take giant vacations to California and all nine kids in my family would be splayed out all over the car. Someone on the floor, someone (usually me) laying on the luggage, someone strapped to the roof. It was de rigeur. We never heard about car accidents and we never really thought about what would happen if we had one. I remember once my mom slammed on the brakes in our 1974 Station Wagon, and my brother Andrew launched about four seats. But that was about it. Seatbelts were shoved haphazardly down into the seat cushions. You'd pull one out, occasionally, and it was crusty and covered with french fries and creased by the hot sun. What are these, we thought?

But by 1988 it was kinda sort of a law to wear your seatbelts. Not a full law, I don't think, but it was a semi-law. It was a strong suggestion. And so we started wearing them. I wore mine out on the driver's training course. It felt weird. I felt stuck to the car. Eventually I got used to it. Now I can't drive without it. If I do I feel naked. I feel like I'm going to get sucked out of the window. I feel like the slightest fender bender will send me through the windshield. And heaven forbid if I let one of my kids sit in the car without their seatbelts, even if we're going to their cousin's house two streets over. It's a little obsessive, I suppose, but it's also really super safe. I imagine most of us are like this now.

So now I'm trying to apply the same principle to texting. I am, admittedly, a driving texter. I have been for some time. I will send off five texts just between my house and my office, a ten minute drive. I will think back on my commute to work and not remember any of it, because I was looking at my phone the entire time. It's pathetic. To add insult to injury, I think my dad, as a state legislator, passed some kind of anti-texting bill a few years ago.

Well, Dad, the prodigal son has returned! I am no longer driving and texting. I've been text free for about a month. Granted, two weeks of that was in Italy where I neither drove nor texted, so it's really just been two weeks. But I'm proud of myself. If I have to text someone, I'll pull over. Oh, ok, maybe I'll shoot one off at a red light. But the days of tapping and swerving and sending and red-light running are over. And I'm hoping that in a few weeks I'll be completely cured. I'm hoping.

My good friends Aaron and Haley Warner lost a father to distracted driving last month. Their mother survived. You can see a video about it here:


Of course I feel terrible for the Warners, but I also feel bad for the girl who hit them - she was texting. I'm sure she feels horrible. I would. And maybe I feel pity because it could have been me instead. Or any of us. I know I don't have enough pull to get masses of people to stop texting and driving. Maybe when I'm famous (notice I said WHEN - Stalking Santa was just the beginning!) I can do it. But until then I can promise that my car will be one more safer car on the road.

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