It appears our ability to disconnect is failing — both on and off the road.
Distracted driving is a growing problem in Bucks and Montgomery counties, and state lawmakers are moving again to toughen regulations on phone use and texting behind the wheel. Texting while driving causes 1.6 million car accidents annually nationwide, according to the National Safety Council, and the dangerous practice in Bucks and Montco has local police citing an increasing number of texting drivers each year. Over the past five years, local police in Montgomery County have cited more than 2,000 texting drivers.
A state bill recently was introduced, and if passed, drivers seen holding a phone or texting will be fined $200. Distracted driving is a leading factor in accidents, and local police say phone use is "rampant" with about four out of five Americans reporting they’ve used the phone for some purpose while driving.
But this "disconnect" phenomenon is growing and it has me wondering about another association problem: distracted living.
The information age has connected us, and delivered virtually everything and anything. In doing so, however, our lives have become more hectic, rushed and distracted. Maybe our brains can’t handle the overload, and so we’re unable to disconnect and live a fulfilled and happy life without the hook-up. We’ve no ability to disconnect.
Distracted living is where you miss out on life because you’re not paying attention, or because your attention is torn in many directions and focus is difficult. Distractions can make learning harder, driving more dangerous and life less enjoyable.
“Our time here is limited to some few decades, and what we use it for matters; distractions take that precious time away from us, make us lose our sense of direction, impede our progress toward our dreams and goals, and make us miss many opportunities in life,” the magazine Psychology Today has stated.
It offered this easy exercise to identify distractions: “If you only had one day left to live, you would spend your time on? (Your choice of activity)? Once you realize where your priorities lie, turn your undivided attention toward them and use all of your efforts and resources to achieve the things that make you feel proud and content.”
Maybe practices like these can make pulling the connection plug easier:
- Stop and smell the roses — literally. Slow down and stop running from one thing to the next, so go to Southampton’s Tamanend Park or the more than 800 acres of park land in Horsham Township to disconnect.
- Control the tech. Technology has improved so many things in so many ways, but also has led to over stimulation and stress. So, put it away for a time and do something different like sit outside and listen to the birds sing or look for shooting stars in the sky. And challenge yourself to increase the down time.
- Talk. Put the devices away and face-to-face with someone about something other than e-connecting. Sit in an outdoor eatery in Hatboro or Jenkintown, for example, and talk while watching the folks go by.
- Thank you, but "no." In clearing out the physical and mental clutter, learn how to politely say no. The every-day schedule might lighten up with fewer items and commitments to handle because you declined nicely.
Distracted driving increases our chances for an accident, but distracted living reduces our quality of life. Appreciate each day that you have so that, in the end, you’re not filled with regret.