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Gwenn Schurgin O'Keeffe, MD Headshot

Texting While Driving vs. Digital Space Squatting: When in Doubt, squat!

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It's true. I sometimes linger in parking spaces to text, talk on my cell phone or check email. I've been doing it for a while. It drives me bonkers when I see people walking and using their phones, checking their phones in line at Starbucks, or, worse, using their phones when driving. So, to be safe, stay true to my Oprah Pledge and do my best to cut down on public digital noise, I've been honkering down in my car to get some work done, check in with my family and all that fun stuff when on the go. Turns out, according to the NYT, I'm very much not alone.

The NYT article points out two important issues we can't deny: Digital "squatting" is our new normal, and so is people getting rather miffed over it. Not at all surprising since one of the issues in our 24/7 society is people want everything when they want it -- even if the person they are upset with is doing something they do all the time.

Is it a bit aggravating and inconvenient when you're hunting for a space and someone is held up in their car texting, emailing or taking on their phone? Of course. We've all been there. At the same time, at least that person isn't using their phone in line at a coffee shop, or, worse, while driving.

There is one final issue to consider -- our teen drivers look to us as role models for not only our driving skills but our digital skills. This sort of digital squatting is just the type of behavior we want them to emulate because it's much safer for them than texting and driving.

If we want each other to be more respectful of when and how we all conduct our digital business, let's not be so critical of each other that we fail to see that some people are actually trying to not be rude in public and not put us in harm's way on our roads. So, as long as the "squatter" isn't taking hours to wrap up his or her digital business and is doing so legally, I think we all have to be realistic that this is our new reality and is in all of our best interests regardless of how long someone has had a driver's license or a cell phone.

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