Monday, April 5, 2010


Last week, I found out that April was National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and once again, I have been struggling with what this means to me. I am constantly distracted while driving. It most often happens when my children wait until we're all loaded up to start poking their sibling and I am left as the mediator. Or when my morning routine hasn't gone as smoothly as I planned and I am left grabbing a bite to eat on the go. My favorite distraction is my cell phone. Luckily, I'm not driving a manual transmission. That would just prove to complicate things further.

Driving starts out as a very labor intensive and mind engaging activity. Many students are nervous the first time they get behind the wheel. Theoretically, they know what to do but in reality it's overwhelming how many things there are to think about just getting the car out of the driveway and onto the road. Some students pick up on how to turn quickly. Others have difficulty with speed in and out, looking ahead, timing the turn or even hand positioning. Some get the dynamics of the car down well but are clueless as to other roadway users.

I remember my first time I sat behind the wheel of a car. To me, it felt like I was in control of a 2000+ pound "weapon". Reality came crashing into my brain and a very primal understanding developed. This was a powerful machine and if I messed up, I could kill someone or do some serious damage. I was speeding down the road and my instructor asked me to pick up the pace. I looked at my odometer...I was going 15 mph. Oh. But it felt a lot faster.

My driving instructor trainer used to tell me that it takes the average driver 3-5 years to gain experience. That's why insurance rates for teens are so high. As an instructor, my goal is to help students obtain that experience at a faster rate than normal. If not, the average driver is involved in a collision every four years. Breaking that down, 25% of drivers are involved in a collision every year. That's a lot. Too much. And quite frankly, I don't want to have anything to do with that number.

Acquiring any new skill is takes time. And luckily, with enough practice of the correct habits we can master anything. Many distractions have become like that for me. I've learned to effectively manage them...because I practice them a lot. I act without thinking. There's a new skill I'd like to have though. In honor of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, I'd like to learn to live more in the present. To be less distracted with things that don't matter and more involved with what does. For the rest of this month, I will not use my phone while driving. This isn't going to be easy for me. I reminded myself of this goal when I left the house this morning. And I didn't even make it out of my neighborhood before picking up my phone to make a call. I quickly remembered my goal when I opened my phone and immediately put it away. So, I know I can do this. I invite you to join me. Live in the present instead of with others on the other side of the airwaves.

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