Guilt, Shame and Stubbornness: What Adults Feel While Texting and Driving

Why Adults Text While Driving -- in Their Own Words

Yahoo Contributor Network


That texting shorthand—talk to you later—is perhaps good advice for 49 percent of adult drivers who admitted in an AT&T survey to texting while driving. That's 6 percentage points higher than teens who copped to firing off texts while in traffic.

Consider that there are 180 million adult drivers and 10 million teens behind the wheel in the United States, according to a USA Today story that published the results of the survey, and that's a lot of distracted motorists.

Yahoo News asked adults who say they text (or email or play Words With Friends) while driving to share brief personal anecdotes of a recent experience. Most wrote about incidents that made them reconsider their habits. Here are selections we received on Thursday.

For those interested in texting-while-driving laws in their state, the Governors Highway Safety Association has compiled a list.


'What if it were a person or a small child?': I cannot believe I am admitting this: Yes, I am guilty of texting while driving. What makes it even worse is that it was raining (so, of course, the roads were slick) when I did it and at night. It was a couple of weeks ago. No one was behind me or on the side of me (in the opposite direction of traffic) on the two-lane road, which I am thankful for.

The text was not that important. I don't even remember whom I texted or what I said. For some reason, I had this urge to raise my head up and look at the road. I was literally within inches of obliterating someone's mailbox. I immediately put the phone down and burst into tears, which is no better when it comes to driving.

All that came to mind was my small child and all I could think was this: What if it were a person?

—Carolyn Spelle, Georgia


'It'll never happen to me': You see, it was just this one time (I swear!) and despite the wintry road conditions commonly found in Michigan in the middle of January, I responded to the musical ping of a received text. And I didn't just read it, which is illegal to do while driving in Michigan. I responded! Even at the time I knew it was wrong, so how did I rationalize this act? "Just this one time, I'll text quickly and besides there aren't many cars around."

I felt safe. It's part of that whole, "It'll never happen to me" mentality. Even though I did only do it this one time, there are many people who habitually text while driving. We grow accustomed to the security, the lack of consequences. I think the biggest reason I avoid doing it so much is my 13-year-old step-son who is often with me, and I want to set a good example because soon enough it will be him behind the wheel.

—Sara Greenway, Michigan


'I felt guilty the entire time': Whenever I see people texting while driving, I get furious. When any of my friends text while driving, I call them out on it. Naturally, I am a hypocrite.

Despite my avowed hatred for texting while driving, I found myself doing it in September last year. A friend had called me during work with very important news. Because I was work, I had to put her off, but I promised to contact her as soon as I got off work. She told me she might not be able to answer the phone at that time, but could receive texts.

My ethics were simply thrown out the window. As soon as I got into the car, I started texting her to let her know I was free if she wanted to talk. I kept my text short and tried to only do it while stopped at a traffic light, but that wasn't entirely possible. I don't know the laws in Pennsylvania for certain, but I think it was illegal and I felt guilty the entire time.

—Michael Strauss, Pennsylvania


'I would secretly read at stoplights': I have a little obsession with romance novels. They are my escapism from the stresses of life. Last spring, before the new texting law, I had a bad habit of reading on my phone while driving. I just couldn't help it! I would get toward the end of a book, couldn't put it down, but I had to drive somewhere. So I would secretly read at stoplights and sometimes while I was actually driving. I did feel bad about doing it, but I never got into an accident or even had a close call.

The hands-free law was all over the news in Milwaukee by last summer. The media really did get the word out, and it worried me enough to keep my cell phone in my purse while I'm driving. I've trained myself to remember that whatever novel I'm reading will be waiting for me when I get home.

—Shanna Dayton, Wisconsin


'I knew their anger was justified': One afternoon, I was meeting up with a friend in Omaha. Not knowing my way around town, I found myself contacting her frequently trying to find out where I should go. Rush hour was nearing, and I was still having trouble with directions. I picked up my phone and started punching buttons while trying to merge right. As I was doing so, I neglected to check my blind spots and nearly sideswiped two vehicles. I was so freaked out and so disappointed in myself that I chucked the phone and found somewhere to pull over. People had honked at me and others had screamed at me to get off my phone, and I knew their anger was justified. I vowed never to do it again and I never have. In fact, before turning on the car, I turn off my phone completely. It's not worth losing my life over or getting someone else killed.

—Heather Silvey, Nebraska


'I'll check it, without fail': Ask me if I text and drive, and I'll tell you, "Of course not," especially if you ask in front of my daughter. The reality, however, is pretty different.

I justify my texting and driving because I only do it at stoplights, mostly. I figure because I'm not moving I'm not a hazard. I'm also not paying attention to what is going on around me and even when you are sitting still, that can still be dangerous.

Also, sometimes, when I'm driving, I'll check a text. If I see my daughter's picture pop up when I get a text, I'll check it, without fail. It's part of my helicopter mom tendencies. I don't know how parents raised children before cell phones.

Even though, at 49, I'm old enough to know texting and driving is dangerous, I still do it.

—Carol Paxman, Utah


'The light bulb finally went off': As a 40-something-year-old, I should know better. I really never thought about defending my decision to do so. A significant portion of my week is spent in the car, I have national clients that require quick responses, I'm a safe driver, I was still paying attention; it would be fine.

The first time I even thought about it was when my oldest daughter's class project required the students make a plan to do something to change the world. One student group started an online petition and nonprofit focused on making it illegal to text and drive in Florida while raising awareness. I was astounded by their initiative and hard work, but continued to go about my work day as I had before.

The light bulb finally went off when I was talking to my daughter a few months ago about getting her learner's permit. She would be driving soon and, in typical mom fashion, my brain quickly ran through all the dangers she would face as a new driver. I made her promise her phone would be stored in the glove box when she drives. Then I thought I can't keep doing what I am [doing and] telling her not to do it. To me it was no longer a choice. I needed to teach her by example.

—Michelle Patrick, Florida


'The danger seems pretty obvious': I consider myself a skilled driver, and I have no hesitation eating, drinking, smoking, or fiddling with the radio while driving. Although I will talk on my cell phone, I do not text anymore while driving.

I find my driving becomes dangerous when I attempt to text while driving. My car swerves in my lane, and sometimes wider. You can only keep one eye on the road, and a sudden stop could become a violent collision. It is impossible to keep an eye on the road, on the phone, and check your mirrors. If I absolutely have to text behind the wheel, I only do it at red lights. The danger seems pretty obvious to me and it's not worth the risk.

—Joe Capristo, North Carolina


'This is a good way to pass the time': Not only do I text while driving, but I quite often talk on the phone as well as play word games. I don't find texting any more dangerous than a trucker playing with his CB or a teenager searching the radio stations. Yes, it is illegal in Georgia, but sometimes I don't think it's the responsibility of the state to govern all of my activities.

As far as my word games go, when you live in Atlanta, you spend a lot of time sitting in traffic, and this is a good way to pass the time. I'm older than 40, and I don't feel lawmakers should be spending time deciding how I should be driving. There are far too many items that they should pay attention to, and my smartphone habits aren't one of them.

—Brian Hopkins, Georgia

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