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It’s time to break our electronics addiction

The Chronicle’s online poll the past two weeks revolved around the issue of electronics and distracted driving. The first poll indicated that people feel that distracted driving is a serious enough issue that punishment should equal that of driving while impaired. The second poll asked how often people use their electronic devices while driving.
Granted, our polls are hardly scientific, but last week’s week poll would indicate that hardly anyone is using their cell phone or other electronic device while driving. In fact, about 75 percent indicated that they use their electronic devices seldom to never while driving.
Recent research has shown that electronic devices, particularly when used by children, can be as addictive as cocaine or alcohol. Judging from our poll, people are just as reluctant to admit their addictions to electronic devices as they are their addictions to chemical substances.
One may want to do some serious thinking about the impact of our electronic devices on our lives — McLeod County Toward Zero Deaths, a coalition of law enforcement, emergency medical services and other public safety agencies, is starting a campaign against distracted driving April 9.
A new release published this week indcates that in 2017, law enforcement cited 1,017 people for texting and driving. That number has steadily risen each year since the distracted driving campaign began in 2015.
Avoiding getting a ticket is a good reason to take the coalition’s advice to turn off your phone, put it out of reach or turn off notifications while you’re driving. The best reason to do so, of course, is to avoid a potentially fatal or life-changing accident.
Read the news release — there also is good advice on how to avoid other distractions while driving.
But, back to the electronic devices, more and more research shows that these devices are starting to run our lives. Like Pavlov’s dogs, who began to salivate when they heard the dinner bell, we just can’t seem to control the urge to pick up our phones when they ring, ding or flash. People on their phones are not just causing car crashes, they are falling into manholes, walking into poles and ruining social occasions by focusing on their devices instead of their families and friends.
There are ways to break the phone habit: only check it three to four times a day, take a one-day-a-week “holiday” from electronic devices, and stop using them at least an hour before bedtime to avoid the blue-light effect of display screens, which disrupt our sleep patterns.
But more importantly, put them away in the car; nobody wants to live with a lifetime of remorse, trauma and grief because checking a baseball score or a Facebook post was more important than driving without distraction.