Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Confessions of a text offender

by Kelly M. Lee, Contractor
Air Force Safety Center

3/18/2013 - Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. -- As the emergency contact for my mother and sister, and because I'm a single mom, I'm never far from my phone. My reality is that I have to have my phone near me at all times. A side effect of this is that I have developed an obsessive compulsion with texting. If I receive a text message, I HAVE to grab the phone and respond almost immediately. And, I've gotten in the habit of having a thought and texting it - right then, right there. If I need to remember something for work, I'll text it to my email. It's convenient, it's done, and it's effective.

Here's the clincher -- I don't have enough self-control to receive a text and ignore it. This means, while my phone sits in my passenger's seat and my kids are in their car seats, and I'm actively driving, I'll pick up that phone and read what it says. I am THAT person!

It gets worse ... I work in safety! So here I sit, very aware of just how stupid I'm being and I can't stop. I've seen the video of the person swerving into traffic and being smashed into pieces. I've seen the billboards of the parents of the daughter whose last text while driving was "where r u?" So, what's a text addict to do? How do I work with my known compulsion to stop my texting and driving?

The only answer, for me, is to physically separate myself from the phone. I can leave it on. I know when I receive a text message. ALL text messages can wait. The school doesn't text. My mom doesn't text. My sister will call if there's an emergency. Repeat the phrase - ALL text messages can wait. So, I've separated myself from the phone, and all text messages can wait. Furthermore, I've asked friends not to text during my commute to and from work and I don't text anyone prior to driving. Yes - I'm pathetic, but that's been established!

So, that leaves phone calls. I'm separated from my phone, I receive a phone call, there is no message left - it can wait. I receive a phone call, there is a message. I can wait until I get to my destination or I can pull off the road, get the phone, and listen to the message - putting the phone back out of my reach afterwards.

I write this article because I feel like I can be the accident that never happened. I needed to be realistic about my lack of self-discipline. I needed to take steps to ensure I don't pick up that phone while driving. I needed to remove the temptation. I am that person who doesn't think it will ever happen to her. I am lucky - damn lucky - it hasn't happened to me already. I'm not writing this article from a wheelchair, at my kids' gravesites, or from jail. "I'd rather be lucky than good" just doesn't fit this scenario. I want to be safe! I want my kids to be safe! I want the innocent people on the roads with me to be safe! I challenge you all to make that extra effort to save yourself from you.

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