Last week a Colorado woman proceeded to send a text message while driving in a parking lot at 20 miles per hour. Moments later, she crashed into a guard rail. A metal pole pierced through her truck, penetrating her through the thigh and pinning her to her seat. She received 40 stitches and is expected to make a full recovery.
The woman, Christina Jahnz, represents the latter of two types of people in this world: those who have time on their side and those for whom time is an adversary. People who have a positive relationship with time tend to understand that to worry can often be futile, or worse, self-destructive. Such people complete their checklists calmly and collectedly no matter how time-constrained they might be. They tend to only study while studying, to only watch a movie while watching a movie and most importantly, to only drive while driving.
Then there are those who multi-task, a result of their inability to manage time. Thus, they have a propensity to worry when they should remain confident and to be confident when they should probably actually be worrying. Jahnz, for instance, was afraid of being late to a meeting, a trivial issue in the grand scheme of life, and confident that she could drive without her eyes, even if for just a moment.
Those who fall into this category are delusional in the sense that they perceive multi-tasking as a virtue, a demonstration of their time-efficiency. They forget that multi-tasking is in essence the inability to focus on any single task, that their professed skill is actually a mark of weakness. What is particularly remarkable is how unfocused they are behind the wheel.
Driving is supposed to be fun. There is an entire subset of the video game industry devoted solely to the simulation of driving a car.
Driving is so fun that people pile into raceways just to watch other people drive cars from a distance. People flock to car dealerships to spend five-figure earnings on cars that they cannot wait to drive. But after a while, people get bored. And so the distractions begin. They play music. They talk to their passengers and make phone calls. Of the various ways that people can distract themselves behind the wheel, however, texting is by far the most distracting. As the task requires the driver to completely divert his attention from the road for however many seconds it takes for him to type or read a message, it is no surprise that texting-and-driving is often compared to drunk-driving.
The danger of texting behind the wheel is almost universally recognized with 97 percent of people in a New York Times poll supporting its prohibition. Georgia’s driving laws reflect this overwhelming consensus: if a police officer sees a motorist using his phone, pulls him over and discovers that he had been in the process of texting, the penalty is a 150 dollar fine and one point against his record.
Sadly, anti-texting laws and anti-texting campaigns in general focus on the tree and miss the forest, so to speak, because they do not address the issue of distracted driving as a whole. A teen can take pride in locking his phone in his glove compartment to prevent himself from using it, but by doing so he is admitting that he is prone to distraction. According to a study by the CDC, 3,331 fatalities occurred in the year 2011 as a result of distracted behavior behind the wheel. Taking cellular phones out of the picture will not guarantee a significant drop in these numbers, not if people continue to hold such a low standard for happiness that negatively correlates with time.
Most of us young adults are extremely time-averse. We associate the length of time between the things that bring us joy as a hindrance against, rather than a medium between, our personal happiness. Everybody wants immediate satisfaction. The point is to learn how to control it, to become well acquainted with time and to focus on the bigger picture, that is, on lifelong happiness. Instant gratification is the antithesis of lifelong happiness. When time turns us into adults, perhaps it will too become our dearest friend. Until then, when you are on the road, no matter which type of person you are, be wary.
–By Erik Alexander