“Thanks for inviting me to shop with you today.” My new friend, Marjorie, turns and nods distracted by someone she’s texting. “Sorry, boyfriend,” she says, as if that excuses the fact that she’s driving. Marjorie finishes her text and focuses back on the road. Her phone dings a few seconds later. “You know, you can put your phone on do not disturb so it doesn’t distract you in the car.” Marjorie gives me a cold stare. “I know, but we’re having an important discussion. If I don’t respond quickly he’ll think I ran out of arguments.” “If it’s really that important, I can text for you.” “Thanks for the offer, but we’ve only known each other a few weeks, I’m not comfortable with you reading my texts.” Well, I’m not comfortable with you risking both our lives by texting while driving, I think to myself. “Okay, I understand.” The phone dings again. Marjorie reads the text, laughs, and sends a selfie in response. The car swerves into the other lane. The car next to us honks and Marjorie curses and returns to her lane. We’re both shaken and take deep breaths trying to calm ourselves down as adrenaline pumps through our veins. We sit in silence for a few minutes, processing what could have been a nasty collision. Finally, I break the silence. “That selfie definitely wasn’t part of any argument.” Marjorie tears up a bit and whispers that she’s sorry. “You’re my friend, Marj, I just want to keep you safe. I promise not to read your texts, just let me hold your phone while you drive, so it doesn’t distract you, or put it out of arm’s’ reach or in the glove box, if you don’t want me to hold it.” “What if something happens to Alex though? What if he’s trying to reach out to me for help and I’m ignoring him.” “You’re not ignoring him. You’re prioritizing your safety. Listen, would you want Alex texting while driving, knowing that he could end up in a crash?” “No, of course not.” “Then why would you put yourself at the same risk.” Marjorie contemplates this and hands me her phone. “You can put it in my bag, next to your feet.” I put it away and thank her. A few minutes pass and the phone dings again. Marjorie lets out a sigh as she ignores the notification. “Okay, you can turn on do not disturb.” I smile, “Sure, no problem.” “And then just tell Alex I love him, but I’m driving and I’ll talk to him later.” Love you, driving rn, TTYL, the text reads. “Done.” Marjorie smiles, and I smile back. We drive along, bopping to a pop song on the radio. We keep the sound low per my request. A few minutes later we pull into the store parking lot and park, safe and sound. We sit in the car for a few seconds while Marjorie starts texting Alex back. Then we walk to the store. I scroll through my social media as I walk. Marjorie taps me on the shoulder, “Hey, it’s dangerous to be a distracted walker, too.” I laugh, slightly embarrassed. “You’re absolutely right.” I put my phone in my purse and we walk inside the store, happy to know we’ll both be able to talk to each other later.
This story envisions how the safety tips I learned in Driver’s Ed to help prevent distracted driving can be applied to friends who have learned unhealthy habits like texting while driving.