Out There: Put Down Your Dumb Phone!

Whether you’re on four wheels, two wheels, or just the shoes on your feet, put down the cell phone. Illustration: N.C. Winters

Do I even need to get in to all the reasons this is a stupid idea? 

Distracted driving is growing at an alarming rate. In your car, you probably multitask: You drink your coffee, eat your snack, check your e-mail on your BlackBerry, change the music on your iPod, talk to your child in the backseat, read the billboards on the side of the road, daydream, and text.

Athletes everywhere hate these idiots and for good reason: In a matchup between car vs. runner, the vehicle with heft, seatbelts and airbags beats an athlete, with little more than a tech tee for protection, every single time. We want drivers to pay attention, for our own welfare and the safety of our fellow cyclists and runners.

But before we point the fingers at drivers, we need to make sure our own hands are clean. Lately, I’ve been seeing a lot of mid-workout Twitter updates and cell-phone photography taken by the athletes themselves:

“Look! I saw the cutest squirrel at mile 6!”

“Bob was drafting off my wheel the entire ride. Look at him go!”

“Here’s a self-taken photo of me sweating and and kicking ass.”

Do I even need to get in to all the reasons this is a stupid idea? Are people so bored while training that there’s a need to update Facebook every mile? Are friends really waiting with bated breath to see what woodland creature will be encountered during a trail run, or what one looks like when blowing a snot rocket? There’s a word for that: vainglorious. Go ahead, look it up. I’m sure you have a dictionary app on your iPhone.

Of course, each of us believes we’re exempt, that our multitasking abilities are higher than the average person. “I’m a better driver than that!” we cry, or “I run on the sidewalk, so I’m safe!”  We read about the texting-while-driving accidents in the news, mumbling “tsk-tsk-what-a-tragedy,” but rest assured that it would never happen to us. Perhaps you’ve even shared an article or shocking accident photograph with your friends, talking about “those people.” But you’re not one of them—you’re much better than that, because you can handle the multitasking better than they can.


Except for those times when you’re reading a quick e-mail on your phone and look up to notice the car in front of you is stopped. Or those times you search for a specific song on your iPod and look up to realize you’re not in your lane (car or bike) anymore. Or when you space out scrolling on Facebook during an easy run interval, miss seeing a curb, and tumble into the road. Yes, I’ve seen all of these things happen—multiple times.

To every person who believes they’re invincible, I’d like to remind you that you’re not. If you don’t believe me, I propose a boxing match: While you’re texting your BFF with one hand, use the other hand to block or duck away from my repeated blows to your head.  What, too ridiculous? So is pretending you’ve got a third eye that lets you look at a little screen.

Whether you’re on four wheels, two wheels, or just the shoes on your feet, put down the cell phone. You can wait until you get home to text your friend that you LOL’d (you know you weren’t really laughing out loud anyway). If you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re definitely part of the problem.  And that, sadly, puts you directly in idiot territory.

Now get over here and let me punch you in the head.

This piece first appeared in the October 2012 issue of Competitor magazine. 


About The Author:

Susan Lacke does 5Ks, Ironman Triathlons, and everything in between to justify her love for cupcakes (yes, she eats that many). In addition to writing for Competitor, she serves as Resident Triathlete for No Meat Athlete, a website dedicated to vegetarian endurance athletes. Susan lives and trains in Phoenix, Arizona with three animals: A labrador, a cattle dog, and a freakishly tall triathlete boyfriend. She claims to be of sound mind, though this has yet to be substantiated by a medical expert. Follow her on Twitter: @SusanLacke

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