Arrive alive — don’t text and drive

Published 8:00 am Thursday, April 9, 2015

“For all the gifts of computer technology, if its power goes unappreciated, it can hijack the brain.”

This is a quote from a book I received at the Michigan Traffic Safety Summit written by Matt Richtel. His book, A Deadly Wandering, discusses a case from 2006 in Utah where a young man was texting and driving and crossed the center line, killing two rocket scientists. He brings up some very good points about technology and the brain, specifically our attention span.

He compares the phone and its ringing or text notification to a caveman building a fire. The caveman is concentrating so hard on the fire that he doesn’t see the tiger sneaking up behind him. Another comparison is someone walking up behind us and tapping us on the shoulder. We need to look for survival purposes; fight or flight. The phone ringing or the text alert is the shoulder tap. Humans need to look, but at what cost?

This is this week’s theme, distracted driving. Mr. Richtel also compares this to “the cocktail experiment.” Try focusing on a conversation with someone in front of you. Then another conversation strikes up next to you and something is said to avert your attention away from your talk. This is the same when it comes to technology and driving.  We must concentrate on the road but when that phone rings; our attention is diverted away, even for a few seconds to see who is calling or texting. That few seconds can make a difference between life and death.

We must make the commitment to stay alive and keep others alive by keeping our attention on the road. Everyone is curious who is calling or texting, even if it’s only for a few seconds to look at the phone and focus on the name or number, but is it worth it? Have you ever looked at your phone for the time, then after putting it away realize you still don’t know what time it is so you have to look again? What if you are driving 70, 55, or even 25 mph when you do that? Are those few seconds worth it?

Please be safe and make a commitment to save lives, possibly your own, and put the phone down. Wait until you are home, in a parking lot, or a gas station to look at the information.

MVC 257.602b, Reading, typing, or sending text message on wireless 2-way communication device prohibited; use of hand-held mobile telephone prohibited; exceptions; “use a hand-held mobile telephone” defined; violation as civil infraction; fine; local ordinances superseded Sec. 602b states “(1) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person shall not read, manually type, or send a text message on a wireless 2-way communication device that is located in the person’s hand or in the person’s lap, including a wireless telephone used in cellular telephone service or personal communication service, while operating a motor vehicle that is moving on a highway or street in this state…”

There is much more to this law including restrictions for commercial vehicles and buses. There are also exceptions to this law, such as reporting an emergency.

So, please think back to my opening statement about technology hijacking our brains. It is there if we let it in. Richtel explains in his book about the advances that has been made with technology.

In WWII, a calculating machine, the Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer (ENIAC) weighed 30 tons. It could compute around 350 multiplications or 5,000 simple additions in a second. By 2012, the iPhone 4 could do two billion instructions per second with the iPhone 5, in 2013, doing even more. The iPhone 5 weighs 4 ounces.

Is this capability able to hijack our brain? I think it can if we choose to let it.

Please, from your Michigan State Police and all law enforcement, be a safe driver and save lives by putting the phone down. Don’t become distracted.

We need you to arrive alive!


Rob Herbstreith is a Michigan State Police trooper. Questions or comments can be emailed to