Asking someone who's under the age of 30 if they've ever used a phone booth is tantamount to asking someone who's under 100 years old if they've ever driven a Model T Ford. It's always a resounding 'no'!

The 3' x 7' vertical rectangle that once served as Superman's changing room and Doctor Who's vehicle for time travel has itself become a relic of antiquated technology.

At one time there were well over two million phone booths in the United States, but that number began to dwindle in the early 2000s with the rise of cellular phones and today, there are fewer than 100,000 remaining in service (at least half of which have probably had their attached directory stolen and are out of order due to vandalism).

There's a new type of phone booth in our world

After taking a recent trip to Montana however, it's come to my attention that it seems there are actually more phone booths than ever before here in the Western World - they've just changed up their look is all.

It would certainly appear that the modern iteration of the phone booth rolls everything from four to eighteen wheels and can reach speeds of up to 304 miles per hour, if you happen to own a make and model that can flex such egregious prowess.

Yes, I'm referring to the automobile. That wonderful invention that when Model T Fords were in production, was simply utilized to get us from Point A to Point B without the requirement of a live animal to pull us along, but now has become a hub for doing anything and everything but just that.

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We've all heard about what a huge problem distracted driving has become due to the proliferation of modern technology, and I'm sure that even the most attentive drivers among us have even caught themselves scanning a text message or making a quick phone call that isn't hands-free on rare occasions. But I guess I never realized just how pervasive the practice of being on a cell phone while at the wheel has become.

National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation

Montana drivers teach me a lesson about phones in cars

My awakening to this sobering reality actually began at a traffic signal in the town of Whitefish, Montana, when a woman in front of me was too busy scrolling through cat videos on YouTube or trying feverishly to reach the next level on Candy Crush Saga to recognize that the light had been green for at least seven seconds. Even a few friendly enough bumps of the horn proved ineffectual at jolting her attentions away from the binary-coded splendors of Big Sky cyberspace.

After finally leaving her avatar self for the hackneyed flesh of her corporeal body so as to get the hell out of my way, I found myself only a few blocks down the road at another red light only moments later.

Thankfully, the woman who'd just delayed my arrival at this intersection had turned off on a side street, leaving me as the pole position vehicle waiting for it to change.

As I did so, I peered in the side mirror and took note of the driver of a car that was now pulling up behind me. And yet again, it was a she who was in the midst of perpetuating the same foozle of diversion behind the wheel as the woman that wouldn't go on the green until she'd swiped left on all the Tinder dates she felt would be too inattentive a few blocks back.

I eyed her for the remaining fifteen-or-so seconds until the light turned green and didn't once see her so much as glance up from her cell phone to check the traffic signal or the general surroundings outside her vehicle.

I was certainly glad to have the pole position when the light finally changed so I would not only be undelayed but also so I could get the hell away from her as quickly as the posted speed limit would legally allow. But these back-to-back encounters with the neoteric zombie motorist set me on an observational crusade to note just how many drivers around me were doing anything but paying attention to the road. Needless to say, I was absolutely astounded at just how many people I witnessed using their vehicle like a phone booth.

My project went on for about 15 miles of U.S. Highway 93 through Kalispell until I reached the bed & breakfast that me and my girlfriend were staying at, and I must have counted at least two to three dozen motorists - or easily 30 to 40 percent - interacting with a cell phone in a way that was drawing more than half of their attention away from the task of driving. It really opened my eyes and actually made me acutely aware of just how dangerous the act of driving a car has become, even when heavily-focused on the road ahead.

Infographic: Phones Are America's Driving Distraction No.1 | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

The dangers of distracted driving

According to the National Traffic Safety Commission, about eight people are killed every day in the United States due to distracted driving, and over 3,000 meet their demise annually in such a way. It's a mounting insanity that is rapidly catching up to its grievous brethren of the same posse, including drunk and reckless driving, and speeding.

I'm certainly aware that nobody likes a public service announcement to come along and drop a downer dose of reality into the punch at their party, but I think it goes without saying that we can all do a lot better than this. Losing over 3,000 of our brothers and sisters of all ages every year just because you can't control your obsession with whatever's going on within the four lines of that toy you think is so important is purely unacceptable, and it's reprehensible to think that anything anyone is doing on their cell phone could be more important than someone's right to continue living this experience we all call life.

So do yourself and everyone around you a very small favor and put the *@#%ing thing away while you're at the wheel. After all, just imagine how stupid you're going to feel if there really is a God and He/She/It asks you for an explanation about how you got to the Afterlife so early and why you felt it necessary to take an entire family of four with you in the process.

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Gallery Credit: Stephanie Crist

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