At a movie theatre last week, during the commercials that preceded the movie we had paid to see, I literally jumped in my seat and gasped out loud as I viewed, for the first time, images of a young man who, in the previous few seconds is seen picking up and glancing at his phone on the passenger seat of the car he’s driving, ram into something. Air bags implode and one can only imagine the horrendous scene that unfolds prior to us seeing the same young man — Andrew — confined to a wheelchair in a hospital room, being attended to by a kind young nurse who wipes away his drool and then offers to move him towards the window to take a look at the nice day outside. Unable to show or voice appreciation, his vacant stare reminds us of the life sentence he will likely serve for indulging in a moment of curiosity and taking his eyes off the road. So moved was I by this powerful 60 second commercial created by Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation, that I contacted them about how I could help spread the word.
I learnt that the Ministry is targeting distracted driving this summer with a powerful marketing campaign that urges people to #PutDownThePhone.
Although cell phone related distractions are huge, cell phones are not the only problem causing distracted driving deaths in Ontario. Deaths that have more than doubled since 2000. Distracted driving occurs any time that we take our eyes off the road and certainly any time we take our hands off the wheel.
So, in conjunction with spreading the word about the Ministry’s incredible initiative, I want to further drive home this important message by encouraging you to be consistently mindful of where your hands are any time your car is on the road.
This means that if you take a hand off the wheel to change the channel on your radio, to eat an apple or sandwich, or even to hold your passenger’s hand, then you’re distracted, whether you want to admit it or not. I urge you to practise mindfulness while driving by regularly reminding yourself to keep #BothHandsOnTheWheel.
Putting your phone in your purse or glove compartment when driving, installing a blue tooth device that is voice activated if you need to make or take a call while driving and pulling over to the side of the road if you want to eat something or need to make a reminder note to yourself, are ways of helping you stay committed to not being a distracted driver.
I know this is not easy. I too have felt the pull of wanting to check a text while driving, of telling myself I will be careful as I munch on an apple. Lately, however, just remembering the impact of the ad is enough to bring me back to the harsh reality that, as the commercial reminds us, “it happens fast” — that it only takes a second for one’s life, and the life of others around you, to change forever. I’m sure you’d agree that nothing is worth that.
If you’d like to help spread the word, please tweet and post messages on Facebook using hashtags #PutDownThePhone and #BothHandsOnTheWheel. Share your stories about how you’ve helped yourself from being a distracted driver.
Here are some other ways for you to help:
• Share this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pcc3VG1TeaU with your network and encourage them to support the campaign.
The solution is easy, but your help is needed to spread the word: When you #PutDownthePhone, you see the road. Your help may save a life. And please remember to keep #BothHandsOnTheWheel
Sara Dimerman is a Toronto psychologist who has provided counselling to individuals, couples, families and parents for more than 25 years. She has written four books and is a columnist for various North American and international media outlets. Sara is a regular guest on radio and television shows and is frequently interviewed for newspaper and magazine articles. Sara is married and has two daughters. Contact her on Twitter.
Originally appeared on helpmesara.com, July 2016.