Focused & Mindful Driving

Ashly - San Luis Obispo, California
Entered on March 1, 2009
Age Group: 18 - 30

Since the dawn of laptops and cell phones, multitasking has become a popular and almost necessary skill. With the rapid development of communication technologies, it has become difficult for me to avoid my cell phone or iPod while managing some of life’s daily tasks. Driving is an example of a task where I’m tempted to do something else simultaneously. Throughout high school I praised myself on my multitasking mastery. However, through education and personal experience I know I can only drive effectively when I’m doing it mindfully and with all of my attention. I believe in focused and mindful driving.

Nevertheless, in 2003 after graduating from high school and beginning Cal Poly, I considered myself multitasking pro. Unfortunately, my mindlessness got the best of me that January. My friend Jessica and I were heading back to the dorms after a Jamba Juice run. We were talking about the weather, while I was driving and text messaging another friend. As I was heading north on Grand Ave.–approaching McCollum St.– someone in a Bronco failed to stop at an adjacent stop sign. I had the right of way as I drove through the intersection. I didn’t realize the driver wasn’t stopping until Jessica yelled at me but it was too late. The Bronco plowed into the passenger side of my Integra. Jessica walked away with only whiplash, but I was not as lucky. I spent the next 4 years with serious hip injuries that went undiagnosed until I ended up in major surgery. I took time off from school for surgery, which resulted in a year’s worth of intensive physical therapy and having to learn how to walk again. Rehabilitation was grueling and one of the most painful things I’ve been through. It also was a time of reflection concerning my driving habits. What did I accomplish by talking, driving, and text messaging all at the same time? I learned the hard way that some tasks necessitate my full attention to in order to do them effectively.

Furthermore, research and state legislature have proved the importance of mindful driving. One study, published in a 2005 issue of Science Daily, explains that young adults (18-25) who drive while talking on a cell phone have reaction times similar to those of seniors, aged 65-74 years. In addition, a study released in a June 2006 journal of Human Factors, demonstrates that cell phone drivers perform worse than drivers who are legally drunk. And finally, a California state law that went into effect on July 1, 2009 prohibits drivers from using a hand-held cell phone. More studies and laws in the future might further prove the disadvantages of multitasking while driving.

purchased a new one. This was a meager and temporary blow compared to the outcome that still upsets me today. I was a runner, and my car accident took this love and ability away from me. I was a devoted cross-country runner in high school and after graduation; I kept up my practice runs which eventually turned into a sort of religion for me. I loved running. Being advised by my doctor not to run after my surgeries was difficult to hear but easy to disobey. However, being warned that if I did run, I could end up having to get a total hip replacement was awful. Losing a car after an accident is trying. But losing something you love and that can’t be replaced teaches you a lesson in life, a lesson you never forget.