As a result of my cellphone, I "killed" several people, drove through a wall and collided head-on with other vehicles Tuesday.
Going 30 mph and traveling several feet per second — before making a mad dash to either the right or the left and hitting a makeshift wall — was eye-opening.
It was an adrenaline rush. It was scary. And it was infuriating.
Lexington police and the Fayette County attorney's office allowed a handful of reporters to drive on a "distracted driving" course in an effort to highlight Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The course was outlined by orange cones that represented highway lanes, people and a wall. We were not supposed to hit them.
Lt. Chris Van Brackel said the course is a countrywide initiative by police departments to educate drivers on the dangers of driving distracted. The program is sponsored by a grant.
"We have reached the point that we have an epidemic now that's not an illness, and that's texting and driving," he said, quoting a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The United States averages 3,000 fatalities a year — about eight people a day — because of texting, Van Brackel said.
Many are teenagers.
"One of the problems is, with everyone having a smartphone, we're so used to communicating through text message that we just don't think about it when we're driving a car," he said. "We're so used to looking down and firing away with that thumb. But what we need to do is go ahead and concentrate on driving."
If we're not texting, some of us are eating, putting on makeup, shaving or reading a book. The stories go on and on about distracted drivers, he said. For example, a police officer pulled over a man who was driving while using his hands to hold and light his marijuana pipe.
During Tuesday's awareness course, we didn't have any illegal paraphernalia, but we did have our cellphones and a new Toyota Corolla to test our driving ability.
Here were the directions: The driver, who was in the safe hands of Billy Fryer, the county attorney driving instructor, was ordered to drive between 25 and 30 mph and turn the car either right or left on Fryer's order.
The turn was supposed to be made before hitting an imaginary wall, outlined by the cones. That was the first few times on the track. Next, drivers did the same thing but while texting and keeping their eyes solely on their phone screens.
I was having some technical difficulties and really needed to text one of the Herald-Leader photographers, so I did.
That was a mistake.
During my 45-minute drive through the course off Old Frankfort Pike, I wiped out more than a dozen cones. If those cones had been people, I would have killed them.
The evidence was in each smashed inanimate cone, crumpled or on its side.
Fryer, who has taught more than 600 teenagers how to drive safely with a combination of tests, simulators and hours of behind-the-wheel training, said texting and driving is equivalent to driving blindfolded.
"The average text, to either read or to text, takes one's eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds," he said.
Even though "4.6 seconds is not a very long time ...if you're going 55 mph and you don't look up ... you have traveled well beyond the length of a football field."
For teens, one problem is answering text messages from parents trying to ask them where they are. Parents are distracting them, Fryer said.
Tuesday's course was not meant to penalize teenagers or adults. It mirrored the reality of hundreds of drivers, including me.
I admit that I text when I drive. At times I might check and respond to emails, and when I'm headed to a scene, I'm usually tweeting.
Some of us might argue that we look at our phones only during red lights, while stopped in traffic, but the truth is that we're putting ourselves, passengers and other drivers at risk.
So, I think it's best we take the advice of Ice Cube — "You better check yo self before you wreck yo self" — because I know I will.