- Hardcover: 416 pages
- Publisher: William Morrow (September 23, 2014)
- ISBN: 9780062284068
- Source: Publisher
In 2006, Reggie Shaw, a Utah college student, was involved in a brutal car crash that instantly killed two men. The accident wasn’t caused by inclement weather or adverse road conditions. It occurred because Reggie Shaw’s attention was elsewhere: on his cell phone. In the minutes that led up to the accident, Reggie was sending texts to his on-again, off-again girlfriend. Sending the texts took seconds. The damage caused by the distraction forever changed the lives of numerous people.
In this narrative non-fiction, Richtel shares scientific evidence that details how our attention is easily comprised by technology. We all experience this; one of the examples noted is the cocktail party effect. We can listen to a conversation with someone while our attention is elsewhere. The same is true with our cell phones in cars, but the difference is we think we can balance that attention without any harm. That is clearly not the case. Texting while driving has deadly consequences.
The scientific evidence Richtel further shows just how addicted we are to our technology. Responding to a text, getting an instant response or interaction is, to our bodies, like a drug. The high is similar to the effects of drugs or of having sex. Like other addictions, the need for more intensifies over time until it reaches an unhealthy level.
Richtel, a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist, succeeds at his intent to get this message across to his readers. Balancing a truly horrific accident with scientific evidence grabs the reader with heart-breaking emotion from the very few pages. Readers follow Reggie through the accident investigation, his prosecution, and how his life, too, was changed by this accident.
It’s obvious that Richtel knows his data. This is clear in the evidence he relays, but also in the formatting of this book. He knows our attention spans are short. With the internet, and text messages, information has to be relayed in short bursts or our attention is lost. So, to keep his readers’ attention, each chapter is limited to a handful of pages.
As I devoured this book, I often forgot I was reading a piece of non-fiction. The constant reminder that this story is real was horrifying to me. Yet the emotion, the intensity Richtel uses captivates a reader much like a suspense or thriller novel. Unfortunately, this story is all too real.
As the mother of a young man who will be driving within the next year, I genuinely think this book should be required reading for teens participating in driving programs. We all remember what it is like to be a teenager; our social lives are the most important things to us. What we need to ingrain in the minds of our children is that texting while driving has deadly consequences. No conversation or relationship is worth the life of another human being.
It is rare that I say everyone should read a book. In this case, I almost demand it. While I read an egalley, I will be buying a print copy for my son. I will encourage his school library to carry it in their collection. I will share it with my friends so they, too, can have their children read it. This book is that important.