As part of my work, I spend quite a bit of time driving. Meetings with clients, checking progress at construction projects; and so forth. While on one of those trips recently, I wondered how much faster traffic would move if drivers all over the world would stop texting and checking email. On many occasions I see cars standing at green lights, drivers’ heads bowed in concentration.
We seem to think that we use our time better if we take care of communications while ‘just’ in traffic. The fact is, however, that traffic is inevitably slowing down as a result. Now we spend even more time on the road, occupying ourselves with messages that often are unimportant and will easily keep a few hours. Or, probably, days. You could argue that texting is not green.
My mobile phone allows ‘prefab’ text messages to be stored and recalled with just a few characters. For example, when I reply to a message with ’15’, the phone will automatically generate ‘In traffic; will be there in 15 minutes’. Or if someone tries to call, I enter ‘call’ and the phone will transmit ‘I am driving now and can’t talk. I will call you as soon as I can.’
I know. The best solution is to keep the phone turned off until I reach my destination. I also know — witness the folks who drive slowly and maintain huge distances between their cars and those in front of them — that texting is going to happen no matter what. To minimize time spent doing so, I suggest we:
- Commit to using this technology only under special circumstances, and not as a way to fend off boredom.
- Make an effort to leave on time, so we don’t have to send messages saying we’ll be late. Anyone living in a metro area already knows that traffic is likely to be dense, and that the drive will take longer than expected. Bad traffic is no longer an excuse for being late.
- Take a few minutes at home or work to send those super-important notes before getting into the car.
- Ask ourselves before making a call or composing a text: what is the worst that could happen if I wait until later?
- Demand that sellers of these technologies, such as Apple and Samsung, are required to integrate apps or other ways to encourage responsible behavior while driving.
Remember: getting into an accident will definitely make you late, feel sorry, and probably look like a fool. You’re getting the message, right?