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14 September 2010

Ask MeCha: Carpool Etiquette Am I being unreasonable or is she dangerous behind the wheel?[More:]So I have been carpooling (1 hour each way on the freeway at rush hour) with a new coworker. Three times now she has sent a text message while driving. The first time, I said nothing. The second time, I just stared at her. Today, I told her she was going to get a ticket if she kept doing that, and she totally blew me off (even talking on a cellphone without a headset while driving is illegal here).

So if it happens again, I am thinking of telling her that what she does in her car is her own business, but we can't continue to carpool anymore if she is going to text while driving. Am I being unreasonable here? What would you do in my situation?
It's illegal for a reason. It's dangerous! Either she stops texting while driving or she drives alone I say.
posted by gomichild 14 September | 21:01
It's so dangerous. You're not being unreasonable.
posted by amro 14 September | 21:08
I would say something. I wouldn't go right to "I won't carpool with you if you don't stop" - I'd probably start with "I'm really not comfortable driving with you while you do that. Is it important? I can type it for you if you like" or something like that. Then escalate if she doesn't get it from there. But I'd make it pretty clear it's not cool. That would make me really nervous!
posted by flex 14 September | 21:12
It freaks me out completely. I like flex's approach, but if you find the behavior doesn't stop, that would be plenty 'nuf for me to stop carpooling. It really is dangerous - too many people have died as a direct result of this activity - and if she wants to take the risk, that's beyond your control, but you don't have to take the risk too.
posted by Miko 14 September | 21:30
It's not illegal here but it scares the crap out of me. I wouldn't get in the car with someone who was texting while they drive.
posted by octothorpe 14 September | 21:39
It's astonishingly stupid (the texting, not your reaction). You might ask if she'd be okay riding with you if you'd had 3-4 drinks.
posted by tortillathehun 14 September | 21:45
Yeah, what everyone else said.
posted by Doohickie 14 September | 22:20
Is it a smartphone? Lots of smartphones have voice activated SMS reading and writing apps.
posted by By the Grace of God 15 September | 02:17
there have been several fatal accidents in my area where people texting have been the cause, including one lady who ran over a cop who was directing traffic and then she tried to delete her iphone's history.

glancing at your phone is one thing, texting at a stop light is one thing...driving and texting are dumb and i personally would not ride with that person anymore unless they promised to not text and drive anymore.

it's your LIFE. texting and driving is just waiting for a freak accident to happen. only it won't be freak, it will be dumb.
posted by sio42 15 September | 07:59
My phone rides in the messenger bag in the backseat any time I drive. I mean, shit, I don't even bother to check the damn thing when I'm on my BIKE, much less a car.

No meaningless inane conversation is worth your life. No one is so important that they have to be available/connected 24/7. You have already made her aware that you don't care for it. That was Strike #1. Next time it happens (Strike 2), tell her flat out that you will leave the carpool if it happens again. If she chooses to ignore you, that's strike 3.

For the rest advocating handsfree or texting at stoplights... Really? You know you are just as impaired driving while talking on handsfree as while drunk, there have even been studies proving it. Turn the fucking thing off when you drive if you must. I repeat: no one is that important.

When you drive, you should be driving. Not playing with your radio, your purse, your beverage, trying to adjust the settings on you headset, whatever. You are in control of several thousand pounds of blunt force deadly weapon. Please respect that fact.
posted by lonefrontranger 15 September | 08:36
My uncle was killed by someone texting while driving. Please, please say something to her.

If you need a horrible story to convince her, here's his:

Uncle Tim was a mechanic, so when a friend got a flat tire one night, he called Tim out to help him change the flat. Tim parked a ways behind the disabled car, with his flashers on. The disabled car also had its flashers on. They were in the right hand lane of a four-lane road (two lanes in each direction).

A man driving a truck suddenly hit Tim's car, pinning him between the two cars. The driver's car then careened across the road, hitting a telephone pole on the opposite side of the road (thankfully not hitting anyone coming from the other direction). He had been texting and did not see their cars with flashers on. In fact, he was so unaware of what happened that he thought someone had hit him from behind.

Tim didn't die right away - he was sent to the hospital with more injuries than I can remember. He had months of surgeries and nursing home care, although never fully regaining his brain function. Eventually his body succumbed to pneumonia. The hospital bills have now bankrupted my aunt, despite having had insurance - care for his massive injuries quickly hit the insurance limit. Tim never saw his only son get married and will not meet his grandchild.

The driver doesn't have any insurance or assets worth suing for, although the prosecutor did press charges. The driver pled guilty to charges that included manslaughter. Last I had heard, the DA was requesting 10 yrs jail plus 10 yrs probation, but the judge was known to be a lenient one so I'm not sure what sentence was handed down. He could not bond out, so he's been in county jail until the sentence is handed down.

Ask your fellow car-pooler if any of that seems worth a text message.
posted by misskaz 15 September | 09:03
Oh misskaz, I am so sorry to hear that!
Add my voice to the chorus of not carpooling with this woman. How can she not understand how dangerous this is?
posted by msali 15 September | 10:11
Yes, this is totally unacceptable. I would refuse to get in the car with her again.
posted by Senyar 15 September | 10:54
I'm with Senyar. I'd take the immediate direct approach. "Sorry, I refuse to ride with anyone who texts while driving."
posted by crush-onastick 15 September | 11:31
I refuse to drive on the same highway with her, even in a separate car.
posted by Obscure Reference 15 September | 11:35
sorry for your loss misskaz.

posted by sio42 15 September | 12:10
Misskaz, how dreadful, and I am so sorry.

I'm in agreement with everyone else that texting while driving is not okay under any circumstances, and actually I'm in Obscure Reference's camp -- when I see this, I call the police (from the passenger seat, of course, as my husband drives our carpool.)

But -- positive reinforcement usually gets what you want accomplished. If this carpool is convenient for you, perhaps say something about how much you appreciate her driving, and how you would be most grateful if she would not text when driving. Then thank her and praise her and generally make her feel good if she agrees. (If she doesn't, I wouldn't get back in the car with her.)
posted by bearwife 15 September | 13:41
misskaz' story is exactly why it's illegal in lots of places and should be illegal everywhere. I wouldn't ever get in the car with her again.

I am sorry for your loss, misskaz.
posted by deborah 15 September | 15:25
Thanks everyone. It's a terrible loss to my uncle's family. I hate that I have to bring out the story so often because so many people seem to think that texting while driving is ok, or that they are somehow especially equipped to do it safely. I understand the temptation, really I do - even knowing what happened to my uncle, I've caught myself sneaking a peek at my phone and considering picking it up - but it's just not worth it.
posted by misskaz 15 September | 16:49
Thanks to everyone, and misskaz, I'm so sorry to hear such a tragic story. I think I'm going to go with flex's approach the next time she does it. I'll let you all know what happens.
posted by Twiggy 15 September | 20:57
Ok so it happened just now. I said "It makes me really nervous when you text when you are driving." She gave me a death glare and put the phone down. That's her warning. Next time it happens, this carpool is over.
posted by Twiggy 16 September | 19:58
Good for you, Twiggy! Way to speak up!
posted by Elsa 16 September | 20:29
It was INCREDIBLY awkward. She would not speak to me for the rest of the 45 minutes we were in the car.
posted by Twiggy 16 September | 21:12
The mighty and terrible Cthulhu decides to sell his own scented products || Cool interview with Stanley Donwood,