To the Pretty Girl Texting in the Car Next to Me

photo from poka0059 via flickr.com

Dear Pretty Girl:

I saw you today as I sat idling at a red light. You were in the blue Prius, and your blonde hair was pulled back in a high ponytail. You had long, thin arms and high cheekbones. As we waited, I noticed your smile. You threw your head back in an open-mouthed laugh. Your teeth were straight and white. You didn’t see me, but I saw you. You picked up your phone to send someone a text.

I kind of freaked out a little. Because as much as I like to think of myself as a rule breaker, well… when it comes to breaking rules that could impact other people’s safety, I guess I’m not so cool with that.

I wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt. Maybe you didn’t about New York State’s “Distracted Driver Law” that says folks are not supposed to text while driving. In fact, if you are even caught holding a cell phone in your hand while driving, you are subject to a $150 fine and 2 points on your license. But it wasn’t the practical stuff that bugged me.

See, I imagined my 13-year-old son sharing the road with you in a few years.

I pictured him, seated right where you were — in the driver’s seat — sending texts. Watching you, I got scared.

Like most parents, I want to believe: My kid would never do that.

But they do.

I mean, you were.

And you are someone’s daughter, Pretty Girl.

As red changed to green, I hoped you’d toss your phone aside, but your hot pink cell phone was pressed against the steering wheel as you rolled forward into the world.

So now I watch for pretty girls in blue cars.

I remembered a Public Service Announcement commissioned by AT&T that I had seen a while back that highlighted the dangers of texting while driving. I thought I would share it.

Because the kids are back in school.

And many of them are new drivers.

And the short film makes a pretty big impact about the risks of texting while driving.

Please watch this video and talk about the behavior as a family. Because we all know, it isn’t just kids who text and drive.

Adults do it, too.

I know it’s hard to ignore the thing that bings and pings and buzzes, especially when it is on the seat right next to you.

But we all have to try a little harder.

Have you ever sent a text while driving? Why can’t some people resist the urge to respond to a text message? Do you think texting is an addiction?

Update: I just learned my friend Stacey at transplantednorth wrote on this same topic a few days ago! If you are so inclined, check it out HERE!

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86 responses to “To the Pretty Girl Texting in the Car Next to Me

  1. Last week I saw a cop texting while driving. Not at a light, but while driving.

    The other thing that really bothers me is drivers with earbuds.

    • Yeah, but aren’t you in New Orleans. I mean, cops in New Orleans? Seriously. ;-) I’ve got a few stories about cops in New Orleans.

      That said, earbuds are a bad thing, too. But at least your hands are free and you are looking at the road. Although I suppose it implies at some point you are looking down to change the song. Or something.

      You know what? Now I hate earbuds!

      • Nope, I’m in Houston. But it’s not bad here. When I lived in Dallas, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a cop texting while driving then pull someone over for stopping one foot past the stop sign.

        The problem with earbuds is that you don’t hear anything around you such as horns, and it’s extremely easy to tune out.

  2. MAYBE it’s just me and my co-dependent issues, but I feel like people EXPECT me to respond immediately. I have gotten out of the habit, and I respond when I get to where I’m going with “Sorry, was driving….” But I think we need to take the pressure off people and stop expecting IMMEDIATE responses. Or we take the pressure off ourselves, or myself, and stop caring about what other people think, and stay alive.

    • Hi Shannon:

      Maybe I don’t have a problem ignoring the technology because I don’t feel like anything THAT earthshakingly important that could come through a text.

      No one would ever text me about a death in the family. No one would ever text me that I have cancer. No one would ever text me to tell me my son is being taken to the emergency room.

      Texts are frivolous. Someone is telling me: Sure, I can pick up bread or Sorry, I’m running late. Usually with a lot of spelling errors and emoticons.

      And for that, I can wait.

      Thanks for you honest response! ;-)

  3. Guilty. But I only do it at red lights. I put my phone down when the light turns green!
    I’m always shocked when I see people texting/talking on the phone when they’re driving now…it’s DANGEROUS!

    • Oh, I’ve been behind you. I’m the one who was beeping because the light turned and you were looking down at your phone. ;-)

      Sorry, that was me.

      But seriously, that has happened, right?

      I’m not going to lecture you.

      But I’m guessing if you are really honest with yourself you know that’s not the only time you have texted.

      And I can see from your avatar you have little people. At least one anyway. Think of your little person. They are watching us. Would you crack open a beer and drive down the street? (I’m guessing you are saying no.) Then WHY would you break the law and text while you are in your car. Little eyes are watching you, learning mom does it, so it is okay.

      • You’re absolutely right! And the worst part is that I’m FULL of righteous indignation when I see other people doing it, even at a red light. For some reason, I fail to apply that same logic to myself.

        In absolute honesty, I DON’T do it when my kid is in the car, but that’s silly logic because someone ELSE’S kid is in THEIR car and I’m putting THEM at risk and shame on them if they put MY kid at risk.

        Consider me converted. Or at the very least, I will be making a conscious effort to keep my phone in my purse where it belongs.

        • I wasn’t trying to get preachy.

          But your life is worth a lot, too.

          If your child isn’t with you… well, you want your kid to grow up with a mommy, right?

          If nothing else, I hope you’ll hear me whispering in your ear before you pick up your phone. ;-)

          And I think we all do the denial thing. I got caught a little further down on this thread.

          Because sometimes I talk on my phone.

          And here I am talking about texting. As if talking on my phone isn’t a huge distraction. Minus 100 points for me for hypocrisy. :(

  4. i remember a girl of about 18 in a car next to me, driving while holding a cell phone in her shoulder while talking, both a cigarette and coffee in her left hand and an ice cream cone in her right hand. amazing.

  5. Horrifying, Horrifying especially since my daughter is months away from 16 and what she thinks will be the day she’ll get her learner’s permit. Good for you for writing this! My thoughts exactly: http://transplantednorth.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/a-confession-for-the-sin-of-being-distracted/

    • Stace:

      I do not envy you that your daughter is about to start driving. All I can say is that if you have modeled the right behaviors in the car, hopefully (hopefully) those lessons will have sunk in.

      We haven’t even bought TechSupport a cellphone yet.

      The boy loses things.

      I can’t imagine the day he is ready to drive. He probably won’t be able to find his keys. ;-)

      I added a link to your post on my blog. Hopefully, some people will bop over to your place and read your beautiful piece.

  6. Reblogged this on Transplantednorth's Blog and commented:
    A great blog post from a great blogger of Teacher and Twits, to echo the point of my last post. Please, don’ t text/call and drive, and if you see someone doing it, do express your displeasure. Let’s start a movement before someone else is killed while reading/sending something as stupid as ROFL.

  7. Florida is the worst for distrated driving – and it’s not just younger drivers. The other day I saw a woman driving a bus of disabled people while she was texting. I saw a school bus driver with a magazine across his streering wheel, while driving. A young girl in my neighborhood swerved in front of my car because she was texing while riding her bike. It’s a serious issue, and I think it’s very hard to enforce until it’s too late.

    I heard a lawyer on TV say he wanted to sue someone because she sent a text to her friend while he was driving. He answered the text, and caused an accident. The lawyer compared sending a text to someone who is driving to a passenger covering the eyes of a driver. I don’t agree. People need to take responsibility for their own actions. Just because someone sends you a text does not mean you need to respond to it – or even read it – immediately. The driver does not have control if someone covers his eyes. He DOES have control of whether he CHOOSES to look at his phone while driving.

    • Larisa: I think the point the lawyer was trying to say is that if someone suggested you do something that would get you to take your eyes off the road for 3-5 seconds — like blindfold yourself in a running car — you would never agree to do it. But that is what text messaging is like.

      The video mentions this and shows how much can happen when a person looks down for just a few seconds. People slam on breaks. Children run across streets. So much can happen, the person was probably arguing that we need to take responsibility for our own actions.

      Something must have gotten lost in translation.

      The video is deathly clear.

      • I was not talking about the video. The lawyer was representing the family of a person who was killed by a guy who was driving and texting. The lawyer wanted to prosecute not only the guy who killed the person, but the girl who sent him the text – from her home.

  8. I got T-Boned recently by just such a pretty girl. She didn’t even see my car until after she hit me.

    • Prudence! Thank goodness you are okay. What a nightmare.

      So…um..what are you driving these days? And are you super-vigilant about texters, like I am? I feel like I see them everywhere!

      • My Corolla was totalled,so I’m driving my partner’s Ford truck these days. I swear I’ve grown an extra pair of eyes since then. My god, the number of inattentive people behind the wheel these days. Keep your eyes open, girl. Don’t let them get you.

  9. It’s not just there, and we have laws against it in the UK, too.

    • I figured in the UK people would follow the laws. ;-)

      Seriously, I know this is an enormous problem everywhere. It just breaks my heart. And I’ll admit, I’m much more afraid of this than anything else when it comes to parenting.

      I’m not afraid of strangers or child molesters.

      I’m afraid of regular people — maybe even my friends — in their cars, texting while they drive.

  10. I see this all the time around town, even though it’s illegal now.

    A friend of mine makes her teenagers put their phone in the trunk while they drive. It’s there for an emergency, but they can’t use it while driving! Genius, I thought. Temptation gone.

    Great post. :)

    • Positively brilliant! Eliminate the temptation!

      I don’t know why I don’t feel compelled to look when I hear the ping.

      I figure I can just tell whoever it was that I was driving.

      So far I can’t think of a single text that I have ever received that has been THAT important.

      Well, there was that 20% discount coupon to Bed, Bath & Beyond…

  11. You get a new anything that’s bright and shiny and makes sweet noises at you…of course you get addicted. But then you learn there is a fierce joy in NOT picking up the shiny new pretty. And maybe saving a life, too. Go for the joy…not the toy. (Look at me…being all poetic.)

  12. Hi Renee! I have trouble texting while texting, so I’ve never tried it while driving. I have had the texting while driving conversation many times with both of my daughters especially when we see someone else doing it. We all have bluetooth in our cars and can call out by vocal command. If they really need to communicate with someone while on the road they can call them hands-free or wait to return the text when they arrive at their destination. I’ve always been a nervous driver and people texting on the road really worries me, too. Great, thoughtful post! :)

    • I am just like you! I have fat-finger syndrome, so I have to watch the keyboard; otherwise, I’ll send a message that makes no sense to the wrong people!

      I don’t have hands-free in my car, and I must confess I have called people on the phone while driving. It seems so much less dangerous than looking away from the road. I mean, I’m watching the road…

      That said, I think I have to promise not to do that anymore.

      I might have found a way to ask for a new car. ;-)

  13. Renée, This post is amazing. Your format, your words, the authenticity of your voice.

    Drivers who text absolutely drive me insane, and yes the idea that it may be one of my children that either text or are hurt by a texting driver scares the bejeebies out of me. Much to my husband’s embarrassment, I often yell at texting drivers to “Put down your phone and drive, dammit!” I do think it is an addiction, of sorts. However, I think it is more a reflection of the narcissism that is rampant in our society. Texting behind the wheel is an incredibly selfish act and, IMO, no different than drinking and driving.

    I used to drive with the phone to my ear all the time, but would tell my girls they should never use the phone while driving. At least I’m not texting, I would think.It’s no more distracting than talking to someone in the passenger seat, I would think. That is until the day I ran through a stop sign with my children in the backseat. I immediately pulled over to the side of the road and thanked God for keeping us safe. Today,if I need to make a call, I pull over. I’d rather lead my children by example than just the words I once said.

    Off to share this on both of my FB pages.

    • Thank you for the compliments, but I am ashamed. I don’t have hands-free in my car, and I must confess I have taken calls while driving. It seems so much less dangerous than looking away from the road. I mean, I’m watching the road…

      That said, after reading your words and thinking would could have been, I think I have to promise not to do that anymore.

      I also think you just helped me to ask for a new car. ;-)

  14. This is my biggest pet peeve, people on their cell phones while driving! Bugs me! Mine stays in my pocket until I have my car parked in a parking lot or am in my driveway. Most of the time I have my little girl with me and I would never put her life in danger for a text message or a phone call.

  15. [Hypothetical]

    *phone is buzzing*
    2 seconds to grab the phone. 1 second to see who it is from. 2 seconds to initiate a reply. 1 second for that car to pull out in front while the attention is on the phone.

    What CAN 6 seconds cost?

    Years of hearing screeching tires. Years of hearing metal crunch and glass shatter. A lifetime of hearing an injured child’s cries (at least they are crying). A lifetime of seeing the injured people every time you close your eyes. The smell of blood and the accident (it doesn’t wash off, I promise) that will haunt.

    What else? A group of people who’s lives have been irrevocably changed.

    No message is worth a life. Pull over.

    • I know. You say that, we read it. We nod our heads in agreement.

      And yet.

      We hear the ping, we look at our phones.

      “Just to check.”

      So much can happen, even in a moment.

      Luckily, my TechSupport is a great texter, and he loves to use my phone — as he does not yet have one of his own. I love to dictate messages for him to send while we are in the car. So. Much. Fun.

      My husband actually gets mad at me for not responding to texts, but half the time I don’t hear the pings the the other half of the time I’m trying on shoes. I mean, the other half of the time, I’m working on very important things, so I turn the ringer off. ;-)

      • That’s the smartest thing to do. I turn my phone off while I’m driving. I’ve had a few people ask me (angrily) about why I took so long to respond to a text.

        I just tell them about the last time I was a first-responder at a very bloody accident that was caused by distracted driving.

        About halfway through the gory details (I had to keep the driver from pulling at what remained of the lower half of his face), they blanched, shut up, and never asked again.

        • “I just tell them about the last time I was a first-responder at a very bloody accident that was caused by distracted driving.”

          How can anyone argue with THAT talking point. Boy, would I love o be a fly on the wall when you are calming informing people, educating them in your own way.

          • lol Depending on the situation, I can be a little intense. I’m kind of a big guy (big does not = fat) and sometimes my “serious” look can be mistconstrued as mean. (I’m usually a Teddy Bear)

            The calming factor is much greater when I’m all geared up. ;)

  16. I don’t have the urge to text when I’m sitting on the couch, let alone while driving. Is it an addiction? Absolutely. Unfortunately, we had a girl die in a car wreck here in Maine a few years ago. She had dropped her phone while texting/driving and reached down to pick it up. Amazingly, I still see people texting while driving all over the place. It really scares the crap out of me to imagine my son when he starts driving. Like I need MORE gray hair?

    • Omigosh! See? That’s so fast. She’s poking around on the floor and, what? She veered off the road? Hit a tree? We think we are in control but we so aren’t!

      I am considering making a sign that reads: “Hang up your phone! You wanna kill someone?” I figure I’ll just hold it in my window if I see someone texting at a red light. ‘Cuz you know if someone is texting at a red light, they text while they drive.

      When you hear that a Rochester woman was shot because of a homemade sign she made, you’ll know that was me. ;-)

  17. I attended the funeral of my friend’s 22 year old son, who died while texting and driving. I can’t even tell you how much it hurts to see this.

    • Lisha:

      I am so sorry. I had no idea. But you know this is epidemic. Everyone is doing it. Teens, adults. We have to get people to stop. Or get apps into those phones that make all phones stop working when the engine is running. Because passengers’ phones can be just as distracting as the drivers’.

      Remember when people actually paid attention to ONE THING AT A TIME? What happened to that? We don’t always have to multi-task.

      But what am I telling you for? You were gracious when I came to NOLA. We spent the day together without bings or pings. And it was wonderful.

      So I will tell you again, I am so sorry about your friend. Truly. I can’t imagine what she must be going through. But I hope by the time TechSupport gets behind the wheel, we have figured some things out so that people aren’t able to use phones in cars. Because as much as I want to believe in individual accountability, when it comes to safety, I want people to have to strap in their cell phones so they can’t touch them.

      We have to figure this out.

  18. First of all, thanks for the bonus points. How many do I get??

    I liked how you delivered this message. It’s a terrible thing. In California you can’t even be on the phone without it being “hands-free.” So texting is a pretty stiff fine as well.

    Keep a close eye on your kids when they start to drive. It’s a strong compulsion for kids.

    • MJ, how does that work? Do the phones not work in California cars? Or is it the climate and culture of California that people follow the rules?

      I can’t imagine the day when Tech gets behind the wheel. But it’s not very far away, so I hope we figure this out.

      • No, people still don’t follow the laws here all the time, either. You have to have blue tooth, or through speakers connection instead of holding the phone to your ear. They feel it’s too distracting.

        I still see a lot of it, and quite a bit of texting.

  19. I stopped using my cell phone for anything while driving after seeing an Oprah show about the risks of distracted driving. It’s a dangerous as driving drunk, and no call or text is worth it.

    Every time I step into my car, I’m aware that it’s likely the most dangerous thing I’ll ever do. And when I see a text-er beside me, I desperately want one of the cop megaphones!

  20. On our way to Denver I had to look twice when I saw a woman with her visor down putting on her makeup! There was no way she could see….scary…

    • I see people putting on make-up and texting all the time. I see mothers turned around in their seats, giving their children something. I’m always like: Really? How about you teach your kids to wait. That safety needs to one first. Oy, this is bigger than texting. It speaks to our ethos — that each of us and our individual needs are more important than the needs of others.

      I don’t believe that.

  21. We were on the highway a few weeks ago, and a guy in a Mercedes blew past us. While texting. While I was on the road with my kids in the car. I wanted to ram him with my SUV (I did not, ftr). I don’t really text. I don’t even have a smartphone. Call me a luddite, that’s fine. I also don’t have teenagers, and I shudder to think what dangers will await to distract them in a decade. Maybe by then all the cars will drive automatically, and everyone can text to their hearts’ desire. By then I should probably have a smartphone, too.

    • Rivki: One day, when we meet, we will look into each others eyes. There will be no interruptions — except from the people we love. Like you, I’m pretty unplugged. I mean, I love blogging.

      And yet.

      I can’t keep up with all the social media. Some people respond to every tweet, every Facebook comment. I don’t feel the urgency. I try to express gratitude to those who have tweeted a post, but I don’t need to see the notifications every moment. I imagine most people are forgiving when I don’t respond immediately. I hope.

  22. god its so scary. a moment of distraction can ruin a lifetime.

  23. Thanks for posting this! I DO think a lot of people are addicted to texting. I’m still amazed how many people drive while holding the phone up to their ear – and of course you never see any of them actually get pulled over.

    It’s really scary.

  24. I am appalled by texting while driving. I have not seen any pretty girls in blue cars, but I think I’d call 911 and save somebody’s life….perhaps my own kids.

    Great post, Renee!

  25. Great post. And yes, I’m guilty. I’m not perfect.
    I’ve done it. I try not to do it.
    And I’ve started sticking my phone into my purse which is always in the back seat so that I won’t be tempted to look at it when it chirps and beeps.
    For me, outta sight…
    It’s terrible the accidents that are caused by such a simple thing. So preventable. A friend of ours is a firefighter and he tells us of the terrible accidents he’s seen where the driver, dead, is still clutching their phone. Not. Worth. It.

    • I like the idea of keeping the phone out of reach.

      Usually the texts are not important.

      I mean, can you think of ONE text that you have received that has been THAT important?

      Not. Worth. It. Indeed.

      Now, how do we convince everyone else?

  26. Renee,

    What an important topic! Thank you for writing about this.

    I think that, unfortunately, it will take many more accidents for people to realize how much of a danger this is. I remember how few people wore car seat-belts! But that has changed. Now most people just have an automatic reflex to buckle-up when they get into the car. That’s when it comes to sitting in the front. There is still a major hurdle about backseat belts. But hopefully time will come when that, too, is something that everyone does. And I do think people will stop texting while driving, but unfortunately it will take time.

    I think you help the issue by bringing awareness to it.

    • I hope you are right. But something tells me it’s going to take the same kind of governmental intervention. I mean, there were stiff fines imposed before people changed their ways. I imagine police enforcement is going to have to really crack down and pull people over when they see people talking or texting. Sadly, making people pay stiff fines is probably the only way to affect change.

  27. News flash — dialing a number while driving IS texting. Checking a text while driving IS dangerous. The message isn’t literal — avoid all the distractions of that gizmo! This is an important post. Thank you for writing it.

    • People argue folks shouldn’t put on lipstick or eat or drink while driving. Part of me thinks this is an unenforceable law. People will need to change their way of thinking. I don’t know if I have faith in that. Sad, huh?

  28. This last summer a guy here in town was texting while driving and ran into a 16 year old boy on his bike. Killed him.

    The very notion of being that distracted while driving baffles me. What could possibly be so important that you need to text it and continue driving? How insulated could you possibly be to believe that nothing will ever go wrong for you? In a strange way, I envy people whose lives are so trauma-free that they think they’re immune to pain and tragedy.

  29. Hi Renee,

    Those public service ads certainly get your attention. It’s frightening what can happen when our focus is diverted for just a few seconds.

    I’ve texted while driving. I don’t anymore. It’s stupid, senseless, and dangerous, but I don’t think it’s an addiction. It’s more a matter of the driver believing that he or she can “handle it”. They can’t, of course, so they invite tragedy.

  30. I cannot even text and walk. How could I possibly text and drive? I have a daughter that used to text while driving and it scared me beyond words. She has grown up and now Maine has a law ;-)

    • That is so scary! I can’t imagine Tech having a car in another state. I know we are modeling the right behaviors. I just worry that our behavior will be undone by what his friends are doing.

      I know Maine has a law. But so does New York.

      No one seems to be enforcing it. :(

      • Maine cops are in a chronic state of boredom. If they see it, they will enforce it ;-) However, most folks do not text with the phone pressed up against the windshield, but rather on their lap…down below the line of sight.

  31. Oh this is such an important post, Renee!

    {And you’re absolutely right – our kids are just around the corner from sharing the road. Oh, how SCARY is that – for all sorts of reasons!?}

    • Galit! I can’t imagine it, my son driving or being driven by other kids who will, by then, be young adults. They think they will live forever. They do. I hope my technology loving son will be able to ignore his — at least while he is driving.

      He is the youngest of all his peers.

      He will not be in control of things for a while.

      But others will.

      This takes my breath away.

  32. I’ve had this exact same conversation with my girls, especially the youngest. I beg, I plead, I convince and they nod thoughtfully and I KNOW they still do it. Because they say “what’s the difference in looking down for one second to read a text and looking down for one second to change a CD?”

    It makes me crazy with worry. I’m just glad Gwen is at school without a car.

    • I know people who say there is no difference between reading a text and putting on lipstick or changing a CD. I don’t disagree. It’s all distracted behavior.

      It’s the stuff that takes my breath away.

      In the end, I guess we are all just speeding along in giant steel and plastic and metal weapons, trying not to crash into each other.

  33. Hi Renee, The only way to stop this practice (using a cellphone whilst driving), is for the service providers to make a stand and put a delay of 5 minutes into repeater exchanges. Changing the repeater drops your call.

    • Interesting idea. Would that only be if you are in a car? Actually, I think it’s a great idea! That would totally change people’s behavior! Maybe people might put their phones away! ;-)

      Is this a real idea out there?

      • Renée, You better believe it, it is a real idea. Regardless of the mode of movement from one repeater to the next. The caller/called is dropped for 5 minutes. This would not only stop the chat/text and ride fundies but there would also be less pedestrians stepping into the on coming traffic. BTW I often shoot myself in the foot to the betterment of all.

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