Each day nine people are killed by distracted driving. In April, our agency committed to helping raise awareness of this epidemic by writing the number 9 on our hands every day.
The idea was that people would see the 9 and ask “what’s that 9 on your hand for?”. Secondly, we thought it would help us remember to avoid picking up our phone while driving.
Well, did it work? Surprisingly, over the 1st week, only a few people asked what the 9 was for. I was a little disappointed in that so I started writing the 9 bigger and I started talking with my hands a bit more. I probably looked like an idiot. I even made a few friendly wagers along the way. Before heading out to a lunch meeting, I’d say something like “if so and so doesn’t ask me about the 9, i’ll buy lunch, if he does ask me about the 9, you buy lunch. Deal?”
Over the next couple weeks, more folks noticed the 9, and thus more folks were enlightened on just how many families are effected by distracted driving.
As for the other goal (reducing my own personal distracted driving exposure). I have to be honest, I felt like a hypocrite many times as I answered calls, plugged in coordinates on my Waze app, and even sent a few text messages (yeah, I know). Many times, I didn’t even realize what I was doing. Finally, I asked myself “how embarrassing is it going to be if I get into an accident while wearing this 9?” For some reason, that’s what did it for me. I could vividly see/imagine the shame I would feel when my hypocrisy was brought into the light.
From that point on I made significant improvements. I set up my “do not disturb while driving” auto-reply and even put my phone in the glove box a few times. I still slipped up a few times, but I definitely made some improvements.
What I’m saying is, drawing the 9 on my hand did work, and it didn’t work, all at the same time. I didn’t completely drive without distraction, but I became truly aware of my exposure to the danger of distracted driving.
It’s now May 15th, and I don’t have a 9 on my hand. Still, I’ve caught myself trying to send/read a text. I’m still working to break the habit. What I’ve noticed about myself is once I hear the ding, I’m distracted. Whether or not I look at the phone. So I need to avoid that ding. That’s wear the do-not-disturb while driving button comes in handy. You turn that on and your phone while not ding while you’re driving. Even better, if you receive a text while driving, your phone will auto reply “I’m driving and will get back to you once I get off the road”. For some reason, knowing that the sender gets this message immediately puts my mind at ease.
There’s truly no message that’s so important that I need to check it/send it while driving. I hope this blog inspires you to put your phone away and Just Drive. If you’re feeling a little inspired but not 100% all-in yet, you should check out the series of videos that Travelers created to raise awareness of the distracted driving epidemic. I embedded one of the videos above but there are a couple more on their YouTube page.