Taking selfies. Streaming a movie. Answering email. Reading a map. Sending a text. Playing Pokémon GO. Everywhere you look, people are using their cell phones to engage in activities like these. Some even use their mobile devices for … phone calls! Starting in 1984 when the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X first hit the shelves and growing exponentially since then, our lives have become inexorably intertwined with cellular phones. With these gadgets now an essential part of many daily routines, guidelines for how to use them considerately have sprung up. There’s no better time for a refresher than July, which has been designated as Cell Phone Courtesy Month.
Consider practicing the following principles every month of the year:
- Stop checking your phone every few minutes while you are in a one-on-one meeting or social situation. Be present and make that personal connection.
- Don’t take (or make) phone calls while you are in a retail space. Moreover, respect areas that restrict mobile device use, such as the movies or the hospital.
- Private conversations should be private, and there’s nothing wrong with letting calls go to voicemail.
- Lower your ringer or put your phone on vibrate while at the office, the doctor, the theater, etc.
- Don’t disturb or distract others just to get a selfie. Enjoy what’s around you without having to document it.
- Put down the phone and drive.
That last point is more than social grace. It can be the difference between life and death. Sending a text message takes drivers’ eyes off the road for an average of almost five seconds. At 55 miles per hour, that’s long enough to cover a football field. Texting while driving is especially dangerous, because it combines visual, manual, and cognitive distraction. Furthermore, hands-free is not risk-free. Cell phone conversations affect attentiveness and distract our brains from the primary task of operating a vehicle safely. It has been estimated that one out of every four vehicle accidents involves a cell phone. One recent study linked more than 75 percent of rear-end crashes by teen drivers to being distracted. When the distraction was a cell phone (rather than a passenger or an activity such as eating), the teens’ reaction times were markedly slower, and about half the time they did not brake or steer to avoid the crash.
No text or phone call (or email or Pokémon catch or Snapchat) is worth putting someone else’s life in danger. Do yourself and those around you a favor by waiting until you aren’t driving before using your phone. Not only that, texting while driving is illegal in 46 states, including Georgia.