Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 27, 2008

Dedicated multitasker vows to hang up while driving

by Amy L. Cornell Community columnist |
March 27, 2008

A carmaker recently ran an advertisement that touted the benefits of single-tasking. I read the ad twice. I had to think about it: single-tasking. What is single-tasking?

The car maker was encouraging consumers to once again enjoy the pleasure of driving with two hands on the steering wheel and a foot on the floor. A subtle reminder to stop doing all the extra things we do while driving, notably talking on the phone. I, like many of us, am guilty of multi-tasking while driving around town.

No one single-tasks too much any more: We drive; we talk; we e-mail; we watch TV; we cook; we talk on the phone. I often return e-mails while waiting for someone to pick up the phone. I try to squeeze as much meaningful activity into my waking hours as I can. I use drive-through services whenever possible. I avoid lines in grocery stores at all costs, and yes, I use my cell phone while driving.

I remember when we brought our new baby home from the hospital 10 years ago. We installed a car seat and strapped him in carefully; he seemed so new and fragile.

My husband and I took a vow to protect this lovely human at all costs. My husband made a proclamation that we would never use cell phones while driving. I readily agreed.

Then we got used to him. We felt comfortable loading him in and out of the car. Our baby gained strength, and the proclamation faded away. Using a cell phone while driving a car became a habit that for busy mothers and fathers is difficult to break.

The other day, as I was driving somewhere in town and using my phone, a man drove across my path, and as he was driving, turned to face me and was obviously yelling at me.

The windows were closed, but by the look on his face, he was angry and yelling obscenities. There was no mistaking that I was the object of his wrath, and in the five seconds that we shared together, about the only thing I could decide that I had done wrong was use my phone.

That sort of vitriolic anger while driving is probably not the safest way to drive either by the way, but I took his emotion to heart.

According to the Web site Drive and Stay Alive (, the Harvard University Center for Risk Analysis estimates that there are as many as 1.5 million crashes annually in the United States leading to 560,000 injuries and 2,600 deaths because of phone use in moving vehicles.

I am like many of you. I am a working parent who has much to do. One of the easiest ways for me to multitask is to pull out my cell phone on my way home from work and order dinner, return a friend’s phone call or call a repair service. I have confused appropriate times for multitasking and single-tasking. Driving should be a single-task.

So, to the angry man in the roundabout outside Renwick, and to my son who is now 10 years old and needs a better example set, and to my fellow community members who must drive on the roads with me every day, I am going to challenge myself to hang up my cell phone and focus on the task at hand — driving.

If you are a cell-phone user who has already made this decision and stuck to it, I applaud you.

If you are a cell-phone user, and like me, you routinely multitask by using your phone while driving, I would like to encourage you to join me in this project of learning how to single-task while driving.

Let’s try to make the roads in Monroe County safer without having to pass legislation to do it.

Amy Cornell’s column appears every other Thursday in The Herald-Times. You can reach her at


Katherine F said...

Hear, hear - It is a slippery slope and recipients, or those being multi-tasked, do not always appreciate it!

Steph said...

What a great example for all of us!

Steph said...

PS - I am sad that your time as Community Columnist is closing.