Ping! A new text arrives as you drive home from work. You quickly glance down at your phone and shoot off a response before you forget, and BOOM! You slam into a car stopped at the red light in front of you for an easy-to-avoid fender bender.
This type of thing happens every day – but sometimes the results are more devastating.
In March of 2017 in central Texas, a 20-year-old driver admitted his texting caused the collision that killed 13 people on the way back from a church retreat. While scrolling my Facebook feed recently, this photo popped up. Greg West, the founder/editor of the apologetics website The Poached Egg, had narrowly escaped an accident likely caused by texting and driving. (His assumption is that the teen girl who hit him ran a red light due to texting.)
Texting and driving is the reason I don’t run along busy roads anymore and am hyper-aware when I run on any road. This may seem overly cautious to you, but I don’t want to put my life into the hands of a person whose hands (and attention) are already full!1
46 of 50 states in the US have already banned texting and driving. This seems like the logical solution, right?—ban something, and you wipe it from existence.
Unfortunately, laws have worsened the problem. Instead of following the law, drivers lower their phones below the sight line of police and other drivers and make the problem worse—they have to look further down for a longer amount of time to read and send texts.2
Savvy phone users might recommend using the Voice-to-Text feature to keep eyes on the road, but the National Safety Council reports that the Voice-to-Text feature is actually “more distracting than typing texts by hand.” Gulp. Similarly, using a Bluetooth device for hands-free phone use isn’t risk-free.
The more you focus on your phone (or the person at the other end of the phone) while driving, the more you risk an accident.
Loving Your Neighbor
Hopefully, the dangers of texting will cause more drivers to put down their devices, but there’s no silver-bullet answer. We must each do our part and focus on the road.
As Christians, putting the phone down and focusing on the road follows the gospel-imperative, given to us by Jesus, to love our neighbor as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40). Every car on the road is operated by a man or woman created in God’s image who has an eternal destiny (Genesis 1:27).
The following are some practical ways to love your neighbor by minimizing risk behind the wheel. (As you consider them, be sure to know the laws of your state or locality.)
- Don’t use your phone in the car – simple as that.
- Pull over if you need to text or take an important call.
- Tell those you would normally text that you will text them back at your destination.
- If you need to use your phone while driving (and it is legal where you live), survey your surroundings to make sure it’s a safe time.
- If you glance at your phone, make it quick. Studies show that a driver can safely glance away from the road for only two seconds (!).
- Realize that many accidents happen because people think they are smarter/more clever than the statistics.
- If you constantly fiddle with your phone while behind the wheel, ask God to take away your desire to drive distracted and for a greater love of other people.
I used to text while driving all the time. I finally stopped after a few close calls that woke me up to the danger my behavior posed to myself and others.
To avoid texting while driving is not only a question of wisdom and personal safety, it’s obeying Jesus’ gospel-command to love your neighbor. And you can’t love your neighbor by putting their lives in danger.