I think that this month we have done an excellent job of covering the Life Issues here at Catholic Sistas. Many times when we think about the Life Issues the big one that comes to mind is abortion. As we’ve seen though respecting life covers many areas of our lives. It’s easy to see how euthanasia, abortion, the death penalty, cherishing those born with defects or disabilities and supporting businesses who promote true life causes would be included here. But how does how you drive your car fit in with this month of respecting life posts?
We all know that getting behind the wheel after drinking is something we’d never do. We, ourselves, would never take that risk, right? We know that it is a crime to drink and drive. When someone gets behind the wheel inebriated they are taking their lives into their hands but worse yet they are taking the lives of everyone on the road into their hands as well. It’s a scary concept isn’t it? Statistics show us that someone dies nearly every 30 minutes as a result of drinking and driving. Nearly 16,000 people each year are killed in alcohol related accidents. What a scary statistic! What’s worse is that these deaths are completely avoidable. One only has to not get behind the wheel when they’ve been drinking.
Are you saying to yourself right now, “Well, I get that drinking and driving kills innocent people. I understand it is avoidable but I don’t drink and drive. I’ve never driven under the influence and never would!” I understand where you are coming from. I’m the same way. I don’t drink and if I did I certainly wouldn’t get behind the wheel and endanger myself and others. There’s just no way. Unfortunately though, I am guilty of putting others in danger sometimes. It’s not often but I’ve been just as guilty as those who drink and drive.
You might be wondering how that can be. What is as bad as getting behind the wheel with your senses so impaired by drinking that you risk the lives of those in your car and those all around you. It’s something that most of us have done at least once but maybe some are guilty of it much more than others. The crime we have committed… talking on our cell phones or texting while driving.
Perhaps you are not aware of the dangers that both of these activities can bring. It’s always been a pet peeve of mine to have people call me on my cell phone and want me to talk while driving. Still, there have been times I’ve picked up the phone to get important news or to just talk. I try not to but I’m not always successful. It wasn’t until recently that I even gave out my cell phone number to most people. I just really didn’t want to risk getting those calls or texts while I’m driving. While I’ll take a call occasionally I never will text back to anyone while driving unless I have a child old enough in the car with me to text for me.
So why is talking on the phone or worse yet, texting while driving, ranked as high up as driving while drunk or under the influence of drugs? Texting and talking on the phone while driving are considered forms of “distracted driving”. These activities account for 6000 deaths per year and over a half a million (500,000) injuries every year. A driver who is talking on their cell phone is four times as likely to get in an accident. Wow. What a statistic! Let me repeat that… a driver who is talking on their cell phone is four times as likely to get in an accident. Driving while on the cell phone (traditional or hands free) is equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol level of .08, or legally drunk! It’s a startling statistic, isn’t it?
As parents we tell our children what is right and wrong. We expect them to put their phones down and to never text or talk on the phone while driving. While we expect this of our children, are we expecting this of ourselves as well? We would never get behind the wheel after consuming too much alcohol but we many times get behind the wheel with our minds distracted and well as our hands. Can we see the significance of what we are doing? Can we see how this might be a “life issue”?
Each and every day we make decisions that affect ourselves and others. We monitor our words so we don’t start arguments or hurt someone’s feelings. We choose just the right thing to make for supper because our spouse has had a hard day. We take time out of our day to pray for someone who is need of prayer. We are constantly making decisions that affect people all the time. Do we realize that when we pick up our phones in the car to make a call or to text someone while we are driving that we are also making decisions that could affect someone’s life in a very serious way? I suspect that most of us don’t.
We choose to stand up for the tiniest humans who are in danger of being aborted. We choose to speak out for the rights of the handicapped and disabled. We choose to favor businesses who respect life at all stages. We vote for those who will work to bring life issues to the forefront of our nation and defend life to their best ability. But each time we pick up our phones while driving we choose to take away the right to life of those in the car with us (our precious children who are relying on us to keep them safe!), of those riding along in other cars next to us and even those who are just nearby who might have their life taken because of our decision to “just send one text” or “just take this call for a moment”. We have to ask ourselves if we truly believe in respecting all life then why do we make these choices?
Perhaps you have never thought about what that cell phone call might mean in the long run. Perhaps you believe that the call you are waiting on is worth the risk. Perhaps you just don’t care, you are busy and it’s the only time you can make a call or send a text. The problem is that if we are truly for life then we must defend it at all stages. We can’t just look at the unborn or those who are in danger of losing their life because they are terminally ill or disabled and think that that’s where our responsibility ends. Our responsibility is to protect all life and that sometimes means we have to alter our ways. In the end do we want to take someone’s life because we just needed to send that “one” text? Can we live with ourselves knowing that taking our eyes off the road for those moments it took to dial a number or type a word or two caused someone to be permanently injured or worse yet killed? I know I would never be able to live with myself.
I encourage you to watch this short video that Oprah Winfrey put together from a show that she hosted. Perhaps hearing the stories of those who have been so greatly affected by cell phone use in the car will help you or those you know who are not convinced that taking that phone call or making that text is not a good idea. It is heart wrenching to know that their pain (both those who had someone killed and those responsible for the accidents) was completely avoidable.
As Catholics we are called to respect life. To do so we have to look at our behaviors and make sure that they also reflect the belief that all life is sacred. If they are not I challenge you to make the changes you need to make sure you are doing everything in your power to save not only your life but your children’s, those in the cars next to you and those who might be nearby. You would never drink and drive so please make sure you don’t use your cell phone to call or text and drive. The consequences can be life shattering.