One of the most dangerous and among the biggest threats to personal safety is something almost everyone has and many hold dear. The smartphone. Ironically, many people would say they have these devices for emergencies and they help them feel safe, but their use is often a distraction and a security threat. Distracted driving deaths has, in some areas, surpassed those from drunk driving, but distracted driving is only a fraction of how smartphone distraction is dangerous. While operating a vehicle or even walking while looking at these devices may result in an accident, the scope of the danger is much wider. Be aware that some states will give you a ticket for distracted driving even if you’re stopped, but still in traffic. (Crossing the Line: Knowing State Law)
Now if you’re parked in a parking spot, you’re free to use your phone as much as you want. But just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The same idea behind distracted driving being a problem still holds true when parked; being unaware of the surroundings. Of course it’s highly unlikely to cause an accident while parked, but what about that robber or deranged person sneaking up on you? You didn’t see them coming because you were looking at your phone.
With your head down and being totally immersed in the text conversation or social media, you are a target. The car you’re driving may be the prize for the criminal; it could also be your phone or even your life. By being distracted, you’re giving them the upper hand; you’ll never see it coming. Why should you worry, you’re in a 2,000+ pound vehicle with the doors locked and glass to protect you? Are your doors really locked or did they unlock when you put the car in park, a passenger opened a door or you turned off the engine? Being in a heavy metal car is meaningless when it’s surrounded by thin glass. Cars aren’t designed to keep you safe from a determined intruder trying to get in and they are remarkable easy to break into.
All too often we hear on the news of someone getting their phone snatched out of their hands, being held up at gun point or being assaulted and the thief running off with their phone. Recently, a woman walking with her 3-month-old child strapped to her chest in a baby carrier was kicked to the ground from behind and had her phone stolen. The video showed that when her assailant passed her, he noticed her phone and that prompted him to attack. We have to be aware of what is going on around us, especially when walking. We should not be consumed with the distraction. Many times I’ve had to suddenly stop my car because a pedestrian walked into the street without looking because they’re distracted by their phone.
There’s also an indirect casualty of smartphone distraction. The eyewitness. Although eyewitnesses are often unreliable, they help with understanding what transpired. With so many people being distracted, the number of eyewitnesses has diminished. Have you ever looked into a car driving next to you and see most of the occupants looking down at their phones? None of them would know what hit them in an accident. The same is true for other public places especially where there’s a waiting area. To pass the time, many people pull out their smartphones and tune out their surroundings, oblivious to any situation that may be developing. Sometimes looking at someone before they commit a crime may deter them.
We are living in dangerous times and should always keep our heads on a swivel. Criminals often try to employ distractions to catch their victims off-guard, but people are now providing their own distractions, making the criminals’ job easier. I don’t advocate giving up smartphones, I have one and it’s incredibly useful, but we shouldn’t become so immersed in them that we don’t know what’s going on around us. I don’t do anything too attention consuming on my phone while sitting in a parked car, and every few seconds, I scan the area. If it’s night, I don’t look at my phone at all. The glow is a giveaway and it’s much harder to see in the dark especially when your eyes have to readjust from looking at the backlit phone. Next time you’re in a public place and are looking at your phone, be aware that it’s a distraction and look around. Sometimes it’s best to just put the phone down, it may save your life.