If you want to drink, that's your business. But as soon as you drink and get behind the wheel of a car, it becomes my business. ~ Candy Lightner
Candy Lightner, founder of MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) had a huge impact on me when I was growing up in Sacramento, California. Her thirteen-year-old daughter, Cari, was killed by a drunk driver not far from where I worked every summer. The organization Candy founded in response to her daughter's death raised awareness about drunk drivers. It also prompted teenagers and their parents to sign a "no-drinking pledge." If teens were out drinking and needed a ride home, they could call their parents with no questions asked (at least the night of). My sister took the pledge with my parents when she was in high school.
Thirty years later, Oprah Winfrey is asking for a similar pledge. And we all know that when Oprah talks, people listen. She is probably the only person in the world who could run for president without a platform and win! If you've seen her shows, you know what I'm talking about: When she looks into the camera, she's looking right at you. Yes, you, and me, and her millions of followers. So when a friend told me that she was doing a show on texting, I taped it.
When Is Texting Permissible?
First came telephone etiquette, then cell phone etiquette, and now a whole new set of rules exists for texting etiquette, or as some call it, textiquette. Smart phones are a necessary convenience, and oftentimes texting is quicker than leaving a phone message or sending an e-mail (both forms of communication that have become passé for the new generation). When my husband and I go to Giants baseball games, I text him to say, "Make it a foot long with mustard and relish." When he's on a business trip, the minute he is on terra firma he sends me a text. Last year at a black-tie gala for eight hundred people, I saw a gentlemen texting and had to ask, "Who in the world could you be texting at 11 p.m?" Turns out it was his wife. They had become separated in the crowd and he was giving her his coordinates.
Text messages are meant to be short and informal. But even a few seconds of distraction can be too much behind the wheel. Who does not know that talking on the phone while driving is dangerous? On a weekly basis, I find myself honking at cars swerving into my lane. On every occasion, there is a phone in hand with fingers fast at work. Oprah stated on her show--are you ready for this -- texting or talking on the phone while driving is as dangerous as driving drunk. That is one powerful statement!
Above the Law
A few years back, my husband broke his foot while golfing. I offered to trade his sports car for my sedan to make things easier for him. As I was driving, my phone rang, so naturally I picked it up. After doing so, I realized that his car did not have Blue Tooth, the hands-free feature (cell phone use while driving is illegal in California). A policeman stopped me almost immediately and imposed a hefty fine, but not before reading me the riot act, and deservedly so. He was right: That time I was lucky because no one was hurt (although my wallet suffered). There are consequences if we drink and drive, so why not if we talk on the phone or text and drive? In twenty-four states, this is the case. Isn't it high time this law is passed in every state? No cell phones, no texting, no kidding!
Don't Become a Statistic
I am intrigued with the idea of our nation as a whole taking the no-phone pledge. I agree with Oprah that we are facing a serious crisis. In the hands of a driver, a cell phone is a dangerous tool. It can be even more dangerous for teenagers new to driving, who are even more easily distracted, especially if there are other teens in the car. On www.teendriving.com, Ryan writes, "Give yourself a gift with a future. Resolve not to text message or use your cell phone while driving. Sign Oprah's No-Phone Zone Pledge."
Oprah has my pledge, and we must urge our kids to take the pledge before it's too late. (Just think of the almost six thousand teens and adults who have already died senseless deaths due to using their cell phones while driving). Take the pledge at Oprah.com, and urge your teenagers to do the same, not because Oprah tells us to, but because we value our lives and those of our loved ones.
Lisa Mirza Grotts is a recognized etiquette expert and the author of A Traveler's Passport to Etiquette. She is a former director of protocol for the City & County of San Francisco and the founder of The AML Group (www.AMLGroup.com), certified etiquette and protocol consultants. Her clients range from Cornell University and Microsoft to Nordstrom and KPMG. She has been quoted by The Sunday Times, InStyle Magazine, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Los Angeles Times, and USA Today. She has appeared on various radio and television stations, such as ABC, CBS, and Fox News. To learn more about Lisa, follow her on www.Twitter.com/LisaGrotts and www.Facebook.com/LisaGrotts.