With Thanksgiving behind us, we are officially in the holiday season.  You may have even gone shopping at midnight Thursday night to take advantage of some Black Friday deals.  Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah or something else, December is often a celebratory month leading up to your holiday and the New Year celebration. 

Many of us use the holidays to reconnect with friends and family after a busy year, and reflect on the year and our life’s priorities.  Let’s use time with friends and family, our true legacy, to remind us of what is most important in our lives – and let’s change some bad habits that put those we love at risk.

I’m going to go a bit off-script from your average home improvement pitch, and ask everyone that drives our roads and highways to start paying attention to the road before them.  I spend a good portion of any given week driving around Jacksonville.  As a business owner I want to meet customers, support my staff in the field, I meet with vendors and suppliers, and I participate in events like Chamber meetings, home shows, and the like.  I rack up some miles.

Sitting up high in a Mr. Handyman van, I’m sorry to report that a good portion of the driving population is distracted.  It’s convenient to think it’s those irresponsible kids, but it’s mostly adults.   One hand on the wheel, one hand holding a phone, distracted driving is a way of life in Jacksonville.  Whether one is paying attention to a map, text, or email, it is only a question of when – not if – these folks will have an accident.  Then it’s a question of how much damage will be done, and who will be hurt.

Picture your family without you this holiday season, because you gambled your well-being on one more email at 65MPH, and lost.  Now consider how often your family is in your car.  If you won’t put down your phone for your safety, will you do it for your family?  Will you do it for mine?

Consider that you may walk away from the resultant accident of distracted driving, but somebody else may not.  Can you imagine living with that?  How about explaining to a loved one of somebody you injured or killed how important your distraction was.  Could you make that case?  If not, put down the phone.

My elevated perch while driving shows me commuting drivers engaged with their phone, reading tablet computers, doing makeup, unwrapping their breakfast burrito, and generally risking their life; and the lives of those around them.

As roads get busier with population growth and the volume of distracted drivers grows, we can no longer assume the drivers around us are paying attention.  It’s up to each of us to bear the responsibility of road safety, if not for ourselves, then for those we love.

Be happy this holiday season – and stay alive.