I was driving through San Francisco when I heard my phone chirp in my pocket. As I approached a stop sign, I slowed, reached for the phone, and averted my eyes from the road. I looked up just in time... as I completed my stop, a skateboarder went flying through the crosswalk that I had begun to roll through.
It scared me enough to think, "I will never do that again" -- until 10 minutes later when, without thinking, I reached for my phone.
Ever have a similar experience? Texting while driving has become a huge problem in the United States. Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be in an accident than non-texters and the distractions result in over 900,000 crashes per year, many of them are fatal.
To raise awareness and prevent unnecessary tragedy, AT&T promoted September 19th as No Text on Board Pledge Day. They encouraged their 240,000 employees and all subscribers to Take the Pledge and commit to never text and drive.
How is a pledge different than a fleeting thought? By saying it aloud and sharing your commitment with others, you are making a promise to yourself and pledging that no text message, email, website or video is worth the risk of endangering your life or the lives of others on the road. Promises made to oneself are powerful.
A friend of mine, Bobby Augusto, lost his 20-year-old daughter, Kimberly, in a car accident that began with a text message. He asked that I share his story in hopes that it will make people take the pledge -- and maybe, save a life.
In the words of a grieving father, here is what happened:
On May 30, 2011, I got a phone call around 1:00 a.m. from my ex-wife. She was crying. She said Kimi had been in a horrible car accident and the police couldn't even tell her if she was alive.
Earlier that night, Kimberly received a call from a friend who needed some support. He had applied to the Fire Academy and was upset he did not receive his acceptance letter. My daughter was a soft-hearted person and she knew he liked Slurpees. So, she hopped in the car, drove to the local Seven Eleven, picked up a Slurpee and took it to him. On the way home he texted her to thank her.
Kimi looked down at the text and she shouldn't have. I don't know if she was trying to reply or just had taken her eyes off the road... but it was long enough to get her in trouble. She ran off the right side of the highway, overcorrected, and spun across the road into the center divide. She thought she was off to the side of the road, but she wasn't.
Kimi got on the phone, called her Mom and said, "Mom, I've been in a car accident. My God, this is totally my fault. I'm sorry. Oh look, somebody's coming to help, I see headlights coming towards me."
The last thing her mother heard on the phone was the crash.
Kimi and I had had a hundred conversations about not texting while driving... like so many people, she thought she was bulletproof and that it would never happen to her. She only took her eyes off the road for two seconds, and I'm sure she thought it was no problem... but it cost her her life.
I have talked to many groups of kids since my daughter died and I say, "How many of you are 19? How would you feel if you were told you only had 366 more days to live?... What if I told you that you could live longer simply by taking your phone, turning it off and putting it in the back seat? Or downloading an app that lets other people know that you are driving? If I told you that you would live longer than 366 days by just doing that, would you?" All the hands go up.
My daughter died because of one mistake. Even is she did the right thing 999 times out of 1,000, it took just that one time for her to lose her life. Just one!
And you know what? It was just a text message... and it could have waited.
Make a promise to yourself that you will not text and drive. Take the Pledge.
Think texting and driving doesn't affect you? Grab your smart phone and check out this simulator that safely lets you attempt to drive while receiving/sending text messages.
Follow Zach Dean on Twitter: www.twitter.com/zjdean