Girl relies on rides from friend who texts and drives
Dear Straight Talk: A friend of mine won't stop texting when she drives, and it makes me nervous. She is the only friend I have with a car, and I can't get around without her. How can I get her to stop without alienating her? — "Rose," Vacaville
Ryann, 15, Tustin: I feel your pain. As a freshman, I rely on older friends and teammates to get around. They all use their phones and text while driving. It's usually at red lights and stop signs, but not always. It makes me nervous, but if I asked them to stop, they would probably refuse to give rides to "the freshman." But honestly, we need to speak up.
Colin, 18, Sacramento: You are smart to be concerned. Texting while driving is illegal, dangerous and kills people. But fools just roll their eyes and rationalize their behavior in a million different ways. Be prepared for hearing how careful she is, how it's not dangerous when she does it. It's total hogwash.
Taylor, 15, Santa Rosa: My mom has the same bad habit. I take the phone and finish her texts. You could do the same. Also, citing statistics may scare your friend into stopping.
Sarah, 20, Santa Clara: Most people I know text and drive. My parents, my sister, my friends. I'm an exception. It's not just at red lights, either. Whenever their phones make a noise, they feel compelled to engage. And it's not just texting; they check bank accounts, restaurant reviews, Facebook. They don't let "mere" driving interfere with technology.
Katie, 19, Auburn: I'll admit, I sometimes text — usually just a quick "k" or "yeah." However, with a passenger, I let them text for me so they're not nervous. If needed, my friends won't hesitate to grab my phone or the wheel, and I'm glad for that.
Gregg, 21, Los Angeles: I and my friends all text and drive. It's totally common. I don't mind it if the driver can pay attention to the road, but for ditzier drivers, it's super dangerous. Ask your friend to wait for a red light, or text for her. Don't sit there quietly.
Brandon, 20, Mapleton, Maine: I don't use cellphones at all while driving. It's just plain stupid. I was in a crash with a girl using her phone throughout the drive. We live rurally with little traffic, but a car cut us off. She didn't brake fast enough and totaled the guy's car in front of us. She's still making court-settlement payments.
Whenever drivers start using their phones, I tell them bluntly that the ticket will equal their cellphone bill for the next year. If your friend won't stop, find another ride. Your life is more valuable than a text message.
Nicole, 21, Grass Valley: My friend and I drive to school together every day. If she even touches her phone, I tell her to put it down or I offer to text for her. Texting while driving has ended hundreds of lives. Be straightforward. Tell her to either pull over or let you operate her phone.
Dear Rose: Yikes. True confessions about a society-wide sickness. Even with stiffer laws and penalties (which are helping), the ultimate fix is personal. You are 23 times more likely to get in a wreck riding with a texting driver.
You — and all passengers — need to be like Nicole and Brandon and call out drivers who reach for their phones. If it's done straightforwardly, it won't alienate. The habit has taken people over, and having a rider say "no" is valuable.
Use the phrase: "Friends don't let friends drive distracted." If your friend counters with how safe she is, roll your eyes and take her phone. Or refuse to ride.
The average text, either to read or send, takes your eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that's like driving the length of an entire football field blindfolded. Who needs bungee jumping for thrills?
What's worse, you have increased 23 fold the odds not just of harming or killing yourself, but of taking innocent bystanders down with you. Texting behind the wheel is more than dangerous, it's also narcissistic.
It's not just teens and young drivers who text and drive. Many learned at their parent's knee. For those parents, let's add irresponsible to the list of adjectives. Too bad our kids didn't get the benefit of 30 years of undistracted driving practice before getting their first smartphone. Sixteen percent of distracted-driver crashes involve newbie drivers under age 20.
Hands-free laws are helping. A University of California, Berkeley, study showed a 47 percent drop in deaths involving handheld phones. In the two years before the 2008 California law, 100 drivers died while using a handheld phone. Two years later, the death toll dropped to 53.
Most disturbing are studies showing that simply speaking on a hands-free phone zaps 39 percent of the brainpower that "keeps it between the ditches." Even without a manual or visual distraction, the simple cognitive distraction of having a phone conversation gives you the reaction speed of a drunk driver.
Speaking of "under the influence," if you kill someone in a wreck while illegally using your cellphone, you are probably heading to prison.
Need more reasons to kick the habit? Let's work together. Drivers: Stay off your phone, or pull over. Passengers: Call drivers out who can't seem to help themselves. — Lauren
Lauren Forcella co-writes Straight Talk TNT with a panel of 85 teens and young adults. To ask a question or become a panelist, click StraightTalkTNT.com or write to P.O. Box 963, Fair Oaks, CA 95628.