Early on in my bartending days I heard a story about a bartender who took the keys of a customer that was so drunk he could barely stand. While the bartender was calling a cab, the customer said he was going to use the bathroom but left for his motorcycle. He located a spare key he had hidden and drove away only to kill two pedestrians a few miles from the bar. The case went to trial and the bartender was held partially responsible in the deaths because of her inability to keep the inebriated driver off the road. In my opinion, the bartender did everything she could to stop him. Should she have insisted he skip the bathroom and remain in front of her until she could escort him into a taxi? Possibly. I don't know the circumstances. What I do know is that she correctly interpreted his level of intoxication and his potential danger behind the wheel.
But there's a different danger on the roads and it's not limited to people of legal drinking age. Texting while driving is an epidemic that's taking the lives of innocent people every day.
In 2010, The National Safety Council reported that "at least 1.6 million crashes each year involve drivers using cell phones and texting." They also released studies that prove texting while driving increases the risk of crashing by 8 times.
Perched up high above the road in my big truck, I witness people slyly texting below the steering wheel or between their knees every single day. Usually their car is swerving into other lanes, or mine, or moving at 2 MPH in a zone designated for 45.
In 1983 the Ad Council launched the famous campaign, "Friends Don't Let Friends Drive Drunk" in an effort to end the tragic and completely preventable loss of so many lives. People under the influence are often easily identifiable by their speech, mannerisms, and behavior. Bartenders and waiters keep tabs on how much someone has had to drink and in order to prevent their own livelihood from being destroyed, take every precaution to make sure customers reach their homes safely without harming themselves or others. Friends, parents, and colleagues do the same for each other in the privacy of their homes and workplaces.
There are no signs of a car texter and you can't exactly take their keys on the hunch that texts may be sent, though it would probably and sadly be easier than trying to take their phone. Collectively we must promise ourselves and each other to put our phones away when behind the wheel. We just must.
Several years ago on a Saturday night I was sitting in a huge, packed Los Angeles movie theatre to see Black Hawk Down. A few seconds into the film someone's phone rang loudly in the back row. A man in the front row stood up, turned around, and screamed, "Turn your f-ing phone off you f-ing slave."
I don't want to be a slave to my phone. I don't want to be a casualty because of my phone. My emails, my texts, my tweets, and my phone calls will never be as important as getting home to my family is. In one piece.