ACHRNEWS

Off-the-Grid Lessons About Safety

June 30, 2011

Last week my husband and I went off the grid for a few days while camping in northern Michigan. It was a great escape, and it was made even more adventurous by the fact that we were responsible for chaperoning 11 teenagers from our church. All told, there were roughly 120 teenagers divided into 10 groups, each led by two adults.

As chaperones, the first thing we were required to do was a “shakedown” of each kid’s bag. We were looking for contraband items like iPods and cell phones, and when we found them, we put them in a bag and left them at the base.

My husband and I left our phones behind, too - safely locked away in the glovebox of the car. Then we took off into the wild (more or less - we did get to use port-a-potties) and started our trek.

While we were camping, the kids told me on multiple occasions that the first thing they were going to do when they got home was pull out their phones and check Facebook or Twitter.

But I honestly didn’t miss my phone once. I loved the lack of distraction and the peacefulness afforded by camping with no phones. I noticed more of the scenery and wildlife around me. I also think that we were safer as a group because we were able to watch out for each other. No one was ever distracted by the ring or buzz of a phone.

We frequently assume that cell phones, with their portability and instant accessibility, make us safer. But that’s not always the case. I recently read an MCAA bulletin warning of the dangers of distracted driving, and it included some frightening statistics.

According to Tom Skaggs, chairman of MCAA’s Safety and Health Committee, “While distracted driving has always been a concern in the construction industry, the additions of text messaging by cell phone and smart phone technology, with its ready access to the Internet and social networking, has made distracted driving much more dangerous.” He cited 2009 statistics, saying that, “More than 5,400 people died in crashes linked to distracted driving, and thousands more were injured in those crashes.” It’s a little scary to realize how easily our attachment to our phones and other technological devices can lead us to forget the basics of safety. I’m not advocating a return to a more primitive lifestyle (obviously, I’m back to blogging already), but I am proposing that we drop the distractions when we need to so we can keep an eye out for each other’s safety.