Wellness & Lifestyle

Reminder for the Road Driven with Friends

Taught to drive by a critical and cautious mother, I was a super defensive driver when I first started driving with a license. I was told to keep both hands on the wheel at all times, check my mirrors frequently, and keep my attention focused on my driving. For the first few weeks, I didn’t have enough confidence in my driving to have others in the car, because my mother made it seem like I was a wreck waiting to happen. I was afraid of being a danger to other people, so I usually only drove to run errands for my mom alone. Eventually, however, driving became more and more natural, and after seeing that there were much worst drivers than me, I started driving to events with friends. Because I was the only one with a license, this involved giving rides.

The biggest difference I noticed having other people in the car with me was that passengers are distracting, especially when they’re friends. You have things going on inside your car that would not be there if you were alone. There were stories being told, pictures and texts being shown, arguments happening, and music blasting. And with each additional passenger, there were more stories, pictures, arguments, and Elphabas and Glindas belting “Defying Gravity,” not to mention people in the car who voice that you’re driving too slowly, are having a worse case of road rage than you are, or pressure you to tailgate or make sharp turns.

Now, I know they don’t mean to be distractions (most of the time), but with all of the action happening in the car, it takes extra concentration to focus on what was happening outside the car. In driving school and the driving safety PSAs, there’s a lot of talk about how food and drink, putting on makeup (I still can’t figure out how people think this is a good idea), and talking on cell phones while driving are the big no-no’s, when really, anything that takes your attention away from the road is dangerous. No one ever mentioned to me that friends can actually bring that into the car. With three or four people having a conversation that involves you, though, you might as well be talking on a cell phone. According to Dr. Allison Curry, director of epidemiology at the Center for Injury Research and Prevention, among the individuals who said they were distracted by something inside their cars prior to a crash, 71% of males and 47% of females said that it was their passengers.

This isn’t to say that you should stop giving rides or driving with friends, though. I’ve just learned to be more cautious when there’re people in the car with me, especially if they’re a rowdy crowd. I can’t count the times I almost ran a stop sign or didn’t see a crossing pedestrian until the last moment because there was something going on in the backseat. These close calls always manage to take me back to what I’m doing, but they’re dangerous reminders. We’d all be better off if we just remembered from the beginning that while what’s going on in the car is exciting, what goes on outside is more important. Just realize that when you’re with friends, you’re more likely to take risks, but as the driver, you are still responsible for the safety of the people in the car. Know that despite the distractions and how well you think you can multitask and divide your attention, your primary focus should be on your driving and being awareness of the conditions outside the car.

If you’re uncomfortable with the noise or energy levels in the car, or if someone’s behavior is becoming too distracting, let your passengers know. It can be as simple as politely asking them to settle down or stopping the car completely to figure out how to manage them. Either way, your priority is making it from one place to another safely. Use your best judgment when you drive, and avoid having your attention stray from the road.

Article by Nicole Marie Barcega

Feature Image Source: The Law Offices of David E. Gordon