We're as appreciative as anyone for smartphones. How often, after all, has their capabilities made it possible to finish up our work away from the office, giving us a chance to be somewhere we needed or wanted to be?
Mobile phones are also like having the Library of Congress in our pockets. "I don't know" is rarely the end of the conversation anymore. Click this, tap that and, voila, we've learned something new.
The ubiquitous adoption of these devices also has led to people's deaths.
Oh, we know the retort: Phones don't kill people. People do.
Yes, smartphones are tools and it's up to us humans to use them in beneficial ways, not ways that turn them into deadly weapons.
The subject is, of course, distracted driving. It existed well before everyone had a small screen to draw their eyes away from the road. Wrecks have happened because a driver reached for dropped French fry.
But smartphones are the electronic equivalent, for some users, of opioids. A simple chime can trigger an insatiable need to see who's sent us a text or a chat, or posted a new image. It doesn't mix well with operation of a 3,500-pound machine moving down a street.
It's hard not to suspect distracted driving in many traffic collisions. For example, a man on a motorcycle was recently killed in west Fayetteville. Police say the vehicle that suddenly swerved and struck him head on. A witness said the vehicle's driver didn't appear to slow at all despite the traffic stopped in his path. Police reported finding no evidence the driver applied his brakes before the collision. He faces a manslaughter charge.
Perhaps there's another explanation (the investigation continues), but the circumstance fits descriptions we've seen of other accidents where distracted driving was a confirmed cause of wrecks.
It's one more warning sign that should, but often doesn't, convince us all to set the phones aside and ignore them while driving. No conversation or alert is worth dying for or killing someone else.
Technology has intensified our distractability. We hope it will one day provide a solution to the driving dangers it has promoted. Until then, it's up to us humans to recognize we can temper the risks with better choices.