Yesterday, I ran in the Third Annual Heather Hurd 5K. At the Harford Community College, the morning was crisp and beautiful—just right for a 5K run. I haven’t seen my official time, but I think I ran 20:29 and placed second overall. That was a lot of fun. I’d been second in age group twice this year, but I haven’t been second in a run in a very long time.
This run is organized by Heather Hurd’s parents. Heather was the victim of a distracted driver. Her parents have also lobbied around the country to have stricter laws passed against distracted driving. Our law in Maryland changed on October 1, thanks to the Hurds. Making sure not to send texts while driving is something that most people agree on. Making sure not to read emails or texts while driving is a foreign concept to many. As I have shared information about my run with others, I have realized that many people didn’t even know about the law. This law seems difficult to enforce, but it is now a primary offense with a $70 fine for the first offense and a higher fine ($110) the second time.
As I think about this law, I have had to think hard about
- (1) How to break myself of habits that would violate the law
- (2) How much I appreciate the law as a runner/walker
- (3) The importance of runners/walkers following similar rules
In thinking about how to break myself of the habit of reading emails while stopped (and occasionally while driving), I have now made a personal commitment to put my cell phone either in my glove compartment or even in my backpack while I drive. Otherwise, I think that accessing it would be too tempting. And, if I am going to run a 5K to raise awareness and hope that others will follow it, I should make sure to follow it myself.
In thinking about how I appreciate this law because as a runner, I have had several “too close for comfort” encounters with cars in the past two and one-half years of serious running. Distracted driving can be dangerous for the drivers of the cars in which the distraction occurs, nearby pedestrians, and nearby drivers.
Finally, it is also critical for pedestrians and runners to abide by similar rules. We have not outlawed distracted running and walking, but distracted pedestrians can be just as dangerous to themselves (and at least indirectly to others) by their actions as cars try to maneuver around them.
To extend it a bit further, also note that distractions from any task can make completing the task slower, harder, and produce less quality. Perhaps avoiding distraction is an argument against multi-tasking in general.
Getting back to the focus on distracted driving, I realize that waiting 25 minutes (my normal commute time) to check emails again is not likely to cause anything to be late. I sometimes feel the need to be productive in general, or to work or to be connected 24/7. As I think about it, I can use all 24/7 of my life to be productive without having to be connected and responsive all 24/7. Separating connection and productivity is critical moving forward. Knowing how to balance them (and balance all the things that motivate me to even think about multi-tasking) is also key.