Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It Can Wait - How To Avoid Making the Wrong Type of Impact

I have been the driver this AT&T ad was created to sway.  

The busy, competent professional.  Prioritize and GET 'R DONE - the true priorities, at least.   An enviable multi-tasker and a brain that can sort and file in expert fashion.  And a community-lover who thrives on staying connected.

Therefore, I text and drive.  I Tweet and drive.  I Facebook and drive.  I email and drive.   I Google Maps and drive.  I auto pay my Verizon bill and drive.   I Pocket cool articles and drive.  And so on....  

I also drive fast.  Pride myself in "lane efficiency."  I am generally very confident in my driving competence.  I know accidents happen and am excellent at making fast-paced risk/reward decisions on the road.  It's exhilarating.  Anyone who knows me well knows that I love to drive.  I've had my share of minor fender benders and take caution accordingly.  But by and large and by lack of crash experience, I believe that bigger run-ins statistically would be unlikely to happen to me.   Who can conceive of that without experience?

But when I pick up a phone while I'm driving, at any speed, I become a willful weapon.   Not only am I breaking the law, I'm breaking the code of good human decency.   By allowing my eyes and focus to dart away, I flirt with risk, dance with life-altering challenge, and most dangerously, at times I still believe, after all that's happened to teach me in my life, that I am invincible.  

I suspect many of you do, too.   That's why I'm writing.

Today, I was the driver this ad was about.  

Matt's post-impact hybrid.  
My boyfriend, Matt, and I were rear-ended on our way to pick up his family and spend a the day at Six Flags Great America.  And we were hit hard.  As we rolled to a stop on a busy suburban street traffic, an SUV barreled into Matt's Volkswagen hybrid bumper going 30+ mph and may have been accelerating.  The driver was going somewhere between 20-30MPH and definitely was not slowing down.   We were slammed forward into heavy traffic but Matt somehow managed to steer the car onto the shoulder of the road, avoiding other cars and pedestrians:  Silver lining #1.  

I was riding shotgun, talking to my father by earphones, when I felt the most powerful impact I have ever experienced.  I screamed into the phone at the sudden shock of severe force and felt the hot water from my venti tea go scorching down my left leg.   My head whipped back to counter the forward momentum hitting hard on the neck rest.  Thankfully, it was not the airbag or dashboard:  Silver lining #2.  

I was in shock.  I'll spare you the remaining details and just say for both of us:  It hurt, and still hurts, a lot.  Neck, back, and head pain.  Dizzy eyes and a mushy brain.  Severe whiplash and mild concussion.  Matt also has a bruised and bloodied elbow, and I have a hot water-burned leg.  And there's additional ongoing impact to our time, work, and wallet.  

Matt, high on adrenaline after a masterful response at the wheel, got out to meet the driver at fault - who was clearly on his phone.  Also a middle-aged professional salesman and accountable on the job.  And probably either in embarrassment or CYA mode, the driver says nearly nothing.  Shocking.  I get the liability play, but he's already at fault and catalyzed a significant incident.  Poor form, dude.  Poor form.   

I went through a short-cycle of the guilt and grief chain --- What if I hadn't taken so long to get ready?  What if I had left the long Starbucks line instead of waiting 5 minutes just for a Venti hot water (that scorched my leg 7 minutes later)? Woulda coulda shoulda.

The simple, hard reality is:  The man who hit us should not have been on his phone.  Period.  

The solution is this:  Make a choice 

It will serve no purpose to rant about the dangers and irresponsibilities of being a willful, distracted drivers on phones.   We all know this.  

We simply must choose to not text, email, social media, dial...and drive.    

That's it.  Just stop doing it.  Make a choice to break the habit, fight the addiction, and remember who we could be impacting if we don't.   Set expectations with clients, teammates and other stakeholders that we will not be responding real time if and when driving.  Un-train our brains to want to look at our phones every 10 seconds.  If there's a quiet minute - or 30 minutes - use it at think time on something constructive. 

It really is that easy.   And if that's not convincing enough...

Many compare the impairment and risk of distracted phone driving to that of driving drunk.  I wholeheartedly agree.  Except on one point - many intoxicated drivers are likely looking at the road whereas most in-texticated drivers are not!   What that means is we are no better than drunk drivers, every time we pick up our phones behind the wheel.  That's staggering.

When I look at the driver who rear-ended us, I am livid at his negligence.  

However, when I look at the driver, I must also see myself.  I am no different.  Neither are you.   

So this message is to all of the YOU's like me.  Let's not make it about how others shouldn't text and drive.  Let's make it about how I and how you should never willingly turn our car into an unguided weapon.  

Before today, I would have seen this video and felt empathy but unconsciously processed it as "those people."   

Today, I watch this crash and can feel the weight of hard impact and a powerless fall out, hear the terrible sound of crunching metal, taste the fear I felt in a flash wondering what was going to happen to me or Matt at the end, and feel the heart pangs of loved ones I could have lost or who could have lost me, and strangers I could have never known until their demise.  

My hope and prayer is that in reading this, you may not need this big of an impact to learn what I learned the hard way today.  And you may continue to remind yourself and remind me.  Often times, we know the right thing to do.  We just need reminding to do it.  

Let's make the right kind of impact

I've devoted my life to making and helping others make a real impact in the world.   Most of you want to make a positive impact, too.  It is utterly important that you and I make the right kind of impact where we are able.   

So please, let's drop our illusions, insensitivities and invincibilities about driving with our phones.  

Join me in ensuring I don't make the wrong type of impact that could disrupt lives forever.

After writing this post, I decided on my commutes to begin listening to inspiring podcasts, audiobooks, TED Talks, etc. while driving and calculating the time I gain learning as well as what I learn.  So far, I have driven 4 hours and 20 minutes and listened to 5 different podcasts, audiobooks, and a TED Talk that I may not have otherwise created time to learn from.  That's 4 hours and 20 minutes of additional learning toward doing my work and living my life as a better human being.  And I'm working toward 10,000 hours....

Please share your favorite material with me!  I will share back what I learn with you.