She almost grabbed for her phone. It vibrated, the dull buzz pulsing from the console of her car, and her hand had nearly reached to grab it. But she couldn’t. She had bought a new feature for her car, a relatively inexpensive addition to her console that provided a compartment for her phone. It prevented itself from being opened when the car was not in park, making it impossible for her to distract herself with a text. Her mother had pushed her to get it after hearing about the myriad of collisions that had been happening on a daily basis, the popularity of technology being the main contributor, as people had chosen to look at a simple text or change a song over safety. She could still adjust the music by telling the phone to do so, so the voice feature was great. She could also still make calls with a hands-off headset that came with the compartment, so that if ever an emergency came up, she could still get help. Though she she did want to read the text, she did admit that the habit of hers was something that she needed to be weaned off of. She kept driving, focusing on the road and listening to the song playing listlessly, until something made her slam on the breaks only moments later. Her heart drummed against her chest, as she looked at the sudden and unexpected havoc in front of her. The man to right had picked up his phone, only for an instant, and had veered sharply to the left. She had enough time to break so that he didn’t collide with her, but she was that the vehicle to the front left of her wasn’t so lucky. The man’s car had driven clean into, causing what she saw to be an incredible amount of damage. It had crumpled like foil. His phone had fallen under one of the tires, cracking and becoming useless. She took a minute or two, as she was going to be stuck for a while behind the crash, and sucked in a few deep, grateful breaths. She moved her gear shift into park and heard the click of the phone compartment in the console, opening, now that she was able to safely access it. She texted her mom. “Hey, mom, thanks for convincing me to get that thing for my console. Big crash near the mall caused by someone on their phone. Could have easily been me. Love you.” She heard the sirens from ambulances and police, coming to take care of the damage. That had almost been her, and she had never been more thankful to keep her hands off her phone.
This was inspired by my work as an Emergency/911 Dispatcher. In my job, we have countless crashes that can be prevented, and many of them are caused by the people involved being on their phones. I have always thought that if there was some way for people to prevent access to their phone in a way that would cause a crash (i.e. taking pictures, sending and reading texts, etc), that the road would be much safer. Of course, some people may not care to buy or be provided with such a thing, but for the people that recognize their habit and want to avoid even being able to cause a wreck, it could be a great thing. It would need adjustments to be completely ideal, but would be a great starting point and an improvement. And the hands-free music adjustment and calling capabilities would prevent boredom and inability to contact someone in an emergency. The idea to unlock the compartment when parked but not only when the car is turned off is so that the phone can still be in use when someone is warming up their vehicle or for something else, but so that it is not used in a dangerous setting. My heart hurts anytime a collision is caused by completely avoidable means, and this is a creative piece on how it can be avoided.