Resisting change: a phone-y example

Once upon a time, some people were set in their ways.  It wasn’t hard to find evidence that their habits, which seemed to them sensible and productive, were often dumb and sometimes dangerous.

Many of these people would laugh if you suggested that.  Others would become hostile.  A few, in private conversations, would concede some nugget of truth; deep down, they saw the benefit of change–but man, changing is hard.

You can probably think of examples: trainers and presenters welded to a world of PowerPoint bullets.  Scattered workforces ignoring collaborative software.  People who just don’t get Twitter.  It’s maybe  easier to understand people who just don’t get a $600 telephone–but if you have one, you’re already coming up with reasons why it makes sense.

Something else that makes sense: staying off the phone while you’re driving.

Sunday’s New York Times had a front-page article about this.  Before you go read it, consider whether you talk (or text) while you’re driving.

This'll just take a sec...

Nationwide Insurance surveyed 1,500 drivers.  Of those who own cellphones, 81% have talked on the phone while in the car.  (I’m surprised it’s that low.)  18% have texted while in the car.

98% of those surveyed said they consider themselves to be safe drivers.  Welcome to Lake Wobegon, where all the drivers are above average.

And 45% said they have either been hit or nearly hit by someone using a cellphone.

Do I want to talk to this guy?

There isn’t a lot of hard data directly connecting cellphone use and accidents, in part because the police don’t ask, and in part because a lot of people don’t tell.  But there’s plenty of evidence about the inability of drivers to cope with distractions like talking.  Hands-free sets make almost no difference, by the way: it’s not that you’re holding the phone, it’s that you’re holding a phone conversation.

Strayer’s research [at the University of Utah], using a small camera to track his volunteers’ eye movements, shows that texting drivers regularly focus on their screens for stretches of more than five seconds.

At 30 miles an hour, in five seconds your car will move 220 feet, nearly three times the length of a tennis court.  At 60, the distance is 440 feet, or one and a half football fields.

You might think you’re multitasking, but you’re fooling yourself more than you’re fooling the rest of us.  We know you’re on the phone, because your reactions are like those of a semi-pro margarita taster.

Multitasking and truckin' along

My point isn’t really about using cellphones in the car, though.  It’s a thought that came to me when I read the Times article: many people I know and respect in the learning field have cellphones.  I suspect many of them use them in their car–I’ve used mine–despite the obvious distraction, let alone danger.

Someone who’d find it hard to stop using the phone while driving for, say, a week–let alone the rest of 2009–can hardly complain when people resist reading blogs, using wikis, or making Twitter a daily tool.

I just hate having to squint while I'm driving.

I’ve always felt that change is easy, especially if someone else is the one who needs to change.

CC-licensed images:
Woman with sunglasses by stephendamron.
Man in red shirt by William Holtkamp.
Truck drive by talkingdc.
Squinting woman by schatz.