She did it again yesterday. She called me from the car, from the driver’s seat of her SUV while she sped down the highway, her kids buckled into their booster seats in the back.
I’m always glad to hear from her – after all, she’s one of my best friends; her story about the flustered mom who insisted a little too vehemently that she borrow her copy of Fifty Shades of Grey after a play date left me laughing all last week.
But I don’t want to talk to her like this. Not when she’s driving. And especially not when her kids are in the car with her.
She’s a smart woman. She reads the paper; she listens to NPR. So I know she knows the statistics: that drivers using cell phones are four times more likely to get into accidents resulting in serious injury. That driving while talking on the phone reduces the amount of brain activity focused on driving by a third.
And she’s a good mom. She makes sure her kids eat their asparagus and brush their teeth – one minute on the top, one minute on the bottom. She outfits them in Dora and Diego helmets and elbow pads before their bike rides. She would never do something to hurt them. Right?
Having moved here from a state where it’s long been illegal for drivers to use their cell phones, I am still surprised every time I see someone chatting away on their phones – or, even worse, texting! (Egad!) – while driving. How could they be so careless?, I ask my kids from my own driver’s seat, inviting them to judge right along with me. Why is their conversation more important than our safety?
But I don’t think much about those nameless drivers after they zoom off, their odd swerving and unnaturally slow speeds mimicking those of drunks.
I do think about my friend.
I still remember the first time she called me from her car.
“Hey, you! How’s it going?”
“Good. Just out picking up some groceries.”
“It sounds a little windy there in Kroger!”
“Oh, I haven’t gotten there yet. I just dropped off Jimmy at school and Katie and I are heading there now.”
So she was one of those people I’d been judging. The ones who talk on the phone while driving.
And the dilemma hit me right away: if I talk to her, holding up my end of the conversation, while she does something I think is wrong, aren’t I complicit? What if something happened to her while she was talking to me? What if something happened to her kids? Wouldn’t it be my fault too?
But I didn’t say anything. I chatted with her until she got to the produce section. And then I hung up.
I’m not proud to say that I’ve done the same thing many times since then: taken her calls, not wanting to rock the boat, when what I’ve wanted to say was: “Focus on the road! Hang up the damn phone!”
But you know what? That changed yesterday. I realized that I owe it to her, to her kids, to our friendship, and to the other drivers around her to Just Say No.
“Let’s talk when you get home.”
Better safe than sorry.