National Cell Phone Courtesy Month: Time to Renew Your “No Phone Zone” Pledge

At 55 miles per hour, it takes an automobile just five seconds to drive the length of a football field on a traffic-free highway. That’s fairly basic math, but an important statistic for any parent hoping to teach his or her child to use the family car responsibly.

This tidbit of driving data takes on even greater importance when one realizes just how many teens today are making those football field-length journeys on a daily basis – and are effectively doing so with their eyes closed. According to a recent poll by AAA, 35 percent of teenagers admitted to texting while driving – even though 94 percent of those same teens acknowledged that it was a dangerous practice.

If that thought strikes you as terrifying and prompts you to take action to protect a loved one, then this article will have done its job.

Killer Texts

Distracted driving was already an epidemic in 2010 when Oprah Winfrey launched her campaign to educate the public about the dangers of talking on cell phones while driving. That year, according to the Centers for Disease Control, 3092 Americans were killed and another 415,000 injured in automobile crashes involving distracted drivers.

Shocked by that statistic and by other data revealed in Winfrey’s television program, America’s Deadly New Obsession, many of her regular viewers opted to take her “No Phone Zone” pledge that year, and encouraged their teens to do so as well:

I pledge to make my car a No Phone Zone. Beginning right now, I will do my part to help put an end to distracted driving by not texting or using my phone while I am driving. I will ask other drivers I know to do the same. I pledge to make a difference.

Unfortunately, as cell phone use became second nature to teens with the advent of texting and to average working adults when bosses realized that they could demand that employees respond to questions at any time and from any location – regardless of whether or not it was physically safe or socially appropriate to do so – those statistics only continued to climb. By 2014, nearly 13,000 more Americans had been killed in distracted driving-related accidents with another 1,663,000 injured. (For those trying to form a mind picture, that latter number would be the equivalent of having the entire populations of Indianapolis and San Francisco injured by distracted drivers in the same year.)

And if that weren’t enough, research over the past several years has shown that Americans’ interactions with family, friends and co-workers are also being harmed. According to a recent article in Fortune, 55 percent of bosses surveyed stated that texting and cell phone use were the largest sources of distraction for their employees with 48 percent indicating that this usage had negatively impacted the work of their employees, and 38 percent noting a clear decline in the morale of other employees forced to “pick up the slack” of their cell phone-addicted colleagues.

That same year, Brigham and Young University scientists released a study showing that “conflict over technology use, lower relationship satisfaction, more depressive symptoms, and lower life satisfaction” has grown between life partners as computers, smartphones or televisions have increasingly interrupted “couple leisure time, conversations, and mealtimes.” Such “technoference” appears to be more damaging than partners realize “even when unintentional or for brief moments,” said researchers, because “individuals may be sending implicit messages about what they value most.”

So What Can Be Done?

While it’s not realistic for working men and women to totally eliminate email or smartphone use in today’s technology-driven world, it is possible for most to take a time out. And there’s no better time to do so than during the summer, according to Jacqueline Whitmore. Whitmore, a business etiquette expert, launched National Cell Phone Courtesy Month in 2002 “to o encourage the increasingly unmindful corps of cellphone users to be more respectful of their surroundings by using some simple cellphone etiquette principles.”

Six years later, she released a list of tips which still serve as a useful, basic etiquette guide for adults and teens trying to make their work and social settings more productive and pleasant. Among her suggestions, let calls go to voicemail when you’re in a meeting or at a restaurant so that you can focus on the person who should have your attention at that moment; if you must take a call, then at least be polite enough to “take it outside” so you won’t interfere with others trying to engage in their own activities in that same setting. Be discreet with what you share over a cell phone during your commute on the train. And for heaven’s sake, turn your cell phone off when you’re in church or at temple.

Be Smart with your Smart Phone – Tips from The Contemplative Traveler

  • Drive Mindfully: Fight distracted driving during the month of July. Take the “No Phone Zone” pledge shown above, and then spend the remainder of the month driving mindfully. Turn your cell phone off and put it away before you get behind the wheel. If need be, notify your co-workers in advance that you won’t be available by phone for 30 minutes (or whatever the length of your commute is), and just drive. Convince your family, friends, colleagues, and members of your congregation to do the same.
  • Work Mindfully: Improve workplace morale and work-life balance by limiting “technoference.” Review the effectiveness of policies which regulate how and when employees may use their cell phones and the Internet while on the job, and make a concerted effort to reduce the unrealistic expectations of supervisors who require employees to respond to text, emails or phone calls at all hours of the day and night.
  • Eat Mindfully: Get each day off to a good start with a breakfast powered by mindfulness. With your mobile phone off, use the time you would have spent getting a jump on your email by having your morning meal outside on your deck or at the picnic table in your backyard (while watching the sun rise if possible). Think about the comforting warmth and aroma of your first cup of coffee or the way the strawberries you’re savoring enhance your morning cereal. If you must use the time for work-related matters, then use that time as mindfully as possible by planning out key parts of your day without the distraction of calls and other interruptions. Then, renew that focus over lunch. Put your cell phone away. (Resist the temptation to set it to vibrate and simply turn it off.) If you’re eating alone, take at least 20 minutes to focus on your meal, or better yet? Lock your cell phone in your desk drawer and take a 20-minute stroll sans cell phone. Walk briskly to get your heart pumping, or just mosey along enjoying the sites and sounds around you. You’ll feel lighter without the phone and will be more focused when you return to your desk. If you’re scheduled for a lunch meeting, encourage group members to turn phones off so that participants can enjoy their meals and be attentive to the topic at hand. And your dinner mindfulness practice should be an even bigger no brainer. No texts. No cell phone interruptions. Period. Just laughter, love and a good meal.


Image: Public domain.


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