Research from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that 3,450 people died as a result of distracted driving in 2016. That does not count all the suffering of injuries caused by distracted drivers in that one year.

The odds are stacked against us. Smart phones are too tempting. They are designed to lure and keep us in, to the point of distraction. Who can resist the ping of a new message received, even when driving Highway 40 at 65 MPH, hot coffee in one hand, phone in the other and two kids in the back seat?

Some know better than to look, but for most the addiction is pure. They’ve got us hooked, and it’s killing us! I’ve sworn off distracted driving, but I’m still drawn to the device. I have to constantly remind myself to be vigilant.

Many of us are multitaskers, taking care of business while on the road, even if that business is seeing who “liked” our latest Facebook post.

The “service providers” make things worse by designing labyrinths to keep us on the line. If I had a quarter for every minute that I allowed a machine to waste my time, I’d be rich.

I feel foolish every time I leave a message on someone’s cell phone or try to check messages. Who leaves messages any more? Providers have layered the process with so much nonsense that it doesn’t make sense to use your voice these days. It’s not the actual leaving or checking the message, it’s the infernal computerized rituals we are forced to endure that ruin everything.

You can’t just leave a message at the tone. You listen to the usual message from the person you are calling. That is followed by your cell provider’s time-gobbling nonsense, often including:

“To leave a callback number, press five.”

That message steals five seconds of your life every time you hear it. That could be five seconds you spend eating hot sauce, carving on a snowboard or flipping back your hair. Five seconds added to five seconds added to five seconds added to five seconds adds up to a lot.

What does it mean to leave a callback number? I have never pressed “five” nor do I know anyone who has. I wonder what happens when you press “five.” You probably enter a labyrinth of options for English, Spanish, etcetera, etcetera and whatnot.

“Joe. It’s Steve. Call me back at 925-5555.”


Instead we are faced with bizarre shifting options. Providers want us to use up those precious minutes, and this is one way of keeping us on the line.

“Your message from (970) 726-5555 sent on Thursday, July 15, at 6:29 a.m. will be deleted from your mailbox. You have four unheard messages. First unheard message sent Monday, August 30, at 10:27 p.m. To reply to this message press five, to page this person, press five, to give an electric shock to this person, keep pressing five…”

I just want to hear the message! It’s most likely a wrong number anyway.

When you hear statistics on traffic accidents and cell phones it’s a wonder that the providers want to keep us on the line at all. I’ll bet half the traffic accidents that happen while someone is using a mobile device occur while the cell phone company is wasting time with computerized messages about messages.

Talking on a cell phone causes nearly 25 percent of auto accidents. One-fifth of “experienced adult drivers” in the United States send text messages while driving. I am an experienced adult. I can no longer see the text on a telephone, whether driving or not. I can’t text without strong reading glasses hunched over a phone in a clean white room, never mind while I am hurtling toward Tabernash on Highway 40 in my Toyota pickup at 70 miles per hour.

On average, during daylight hours in 2008, over 800,000 vehicles were driven by someone using a hand-held cell phone. What in the world is so important? And what is everyone talking about? Of course, I am pretty good at talking on my cell phone while driving but the other guy worries me.

“Everyone should understand the very real dangers of texting while driving. Taking your eyes off the road for a moment is all it takes to cause a crash and change lives forever. Remember, no text or call is worth a life,” said NHTSA deputy administrator Heidi King. The organization is in its fifth year of a campaign called, “U Drive. U Text. U Pay.”

King has reason for concern. Her organization’s 2016 data indicate that female drivers with a cell phone have been more likely to be involved in fatal distracted-driving crashes, as compared to male drivers, every year since 2012.

Someone needs to sue the phone companies for keeping us on the line while we should be driving. Stop wasting our time. Stop wasting life. Stop. Just stop.

Reach Steve Skinner at