Medicine for the Outdoors
Medicine for the Outdoors

Dr. Paul Auerbach is the world's leading outdoor health expert. His blog offers tips on outdoor safety and advice on how to handle wilderness emergencies.

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Turn Off the Cell Phone and Pay Attention to What You're Doing

It’s well established now that talking on a cell phone while driving leads to increased motor vehicle crashes. So, the law states that one must use a Bluetooth device or be on a speakerphone while driving. Worse than talking on the phone, which is still a distraction, is texting, which takes one’s eyes off the road. So, the law says that it is illegal to text while driving. There’s no way around it. If you text and drive, you’re asking for trouble.

What’s different about driving a car and riding a road bike, or a mountain bike, or being on skis, or walking on a narrow rocky trail with a steep drop-off on one side? If you were trying to balance on a ladder, or belay a friend down a sheer cliff, or cross the ice fall, would you take your eyes off what you’re doing to text a friend?

We don’t need a fancy expensive medical study to prove what we already know. When your attention is focused on your phone conversation, your eyes are on your iPhone, or your fingers are flying across the keyboard of your Blackberry, you are not watching your feet, seeking out obstacles, or using your senses to their best advantage to stay out of danger. It’s astonishing to watch helmetless college students bike diagonally across a 4-way stop sign intersection with bilateral earbuds while texting and talking at the same time. I need eyes in the back of my head to avoid the shredders on the hill with their fancy videocams who are talking, boarding and racing at the same time.

I don’t know about you, but I need to be focused on watching, listening and really paying attention to avoid the root sticking up from the ground, the slippery patch of moss, and the loose rock on the steep steps. The expression, “He can’t walk and chew gum at the same time,” was invented for people like me. Let me coin an expression for everyone else: “You can’t text and be safe at the same time.” When you need to look at a screen or have a chat on the phone, step to the side, take care of your business, then rejoin the traffic. If you don’t want to do it for yourself, do it for the sake of your companions, who will appreciate not being tripped or knocked over.

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Tags: General Interest

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About the Author

Dr. Paul S. Auerbach is the world’s leading authority on wilderness medicine.