Julie Entwistle, MBA, BHSc (OT), BSc


What a great bumper sticker created to remind people of the risks of texting and driving. Why is this necessary? Because texting while driving has recently surpassed drinking as the # 1 cause of vehicle collisions. In fact, texting drivers are 23 times more likely than non-distracted drivers to be involved in a crash. The largest problem is with teens, but 47% of adults also admit that they are guilty of this habit.

I can see the pattern already…back in the 70’s when people were dying or getting seriously injured in car accidents they made seat belt laws. Then, kids were still getting hurt, or worse, because they were too small for the belt. So, they made car seats and enacted strict laws about their use. Drinking and driving was then on the rise, and many people (young and old) were losing their lives because of their own poor decisions, or due to the carelessness of others. Drinking laws come in, MADD is formed, and slowly the rates start dropping. When it was realized that some people were still not wearing belts, they brought in air bags. The increased safety of these for a seat-belt wearer was minimal, but for a non-wearer, somewhat protective.  Soon, the car phone is invented and this is replaced with the cell phone. Talking and driving becomes the norm. Arrive texting. Accidents relating to cell phone use in general increases, and now in Ontario there is a stiff fine for not being hands free in the car. Texting is more discrete when driving because the phone can be concealed below the eyesight of other drivers (versus attached to your ear). But when the driver is looking down, not ahead like they are supposed to, it is easy to surmise what they are up to. Texting and driving laws fall under “hands free” but based on the latest stats, it is clearly still happening.

If we break this down, we can see that texting and driving is not the real problem. This is just a symptom. The real problem is a society addicted to technology. A new generation of adults, tweens and teens that are so attached to their device(s) that they are unable to function without them. Instant gratification, the latest news and gossip, the ability to multi-task all the time. We have created a culture of people that literally can’t wait to communicate.

So, what can we do to try and help the pendulum to swing the other way? Here are some thoughts…

1. Like anything, as parents and adults we need to model appropriate phone behavior. No phones after a certain time, none at the table, not in your bedroom, and NEVER WHEN DRIVING. I still see adults driving, talking on the phone (illegal) with their tween in the front seat. Good luck teaching your kid how to follow the rules and drive safely if you are not doing this yourself.

2. Silent mode is an option. Turn the darn thing off. If a ding, ping, or funky tune has you desperate to find your phone and respond, power it down, use airplane mode, shut off the Wi-Fi – anything to pull you from the device at times when its use is not appropriate.

3. Don’t start this stuff too early with your kids. I love the quote from the book Queenbees and Wannabees “If your child is between the ages of 7 and 12 and has a cell phone, you have lost your mind”. Wow, I know a lot of people that are insane then. It is everywhere. For me, my kids can have a phone when they can a) afford it or b) show enough responsibility that its’ use will be proper. They still can’t hang up their coats so why would I assume they can manage a phone? Saying no as a parent is one of the greatest gifts we can give our children.

4. Support the cause. There are some great people and organizations out there that are trying to educate the youth of today about the perils of texting and driving. Check out – a crusade and website that is being managed by a 16 year old. Impressive! Or, where you can purchase bands to place over your phone for in the car, or thumb bands reminding you to text responsibly.

As an occupational therapist working with car accident survivors, I can tell you no message, text or call is worth it. The impact of an accident on you physically, cognitively or emotionally can be severe, devastating, catastrophic. The way you are treated by your insurer may disgust you. The length of time it takes to get back on your feet, to return to work, play, fun, will surprise you. And if you don’t value your own life to stop these dangerous habits, then value the lives of other drivers that rely on you to be focusing on ONE thing when driving – THE ROAD.

In May, Entwistle Power will be at the Hamilton Health Sciences Conference giving out wrist bands to spread the “don’t text and drive” message. While I love my job, I would rather see car accidents disappear.