I have two young children and there's a lot of ferrying around to be done. My partner does most of the driving, and I appreciate that – he's a much better driver than I am. He's responsible in every way, a good provider, husband and father. The problem is when he drives, he is constantly checking his phone, texting, reading texts and e-mails, looking for directions – even just looking up facts if one of the kids has a question. I've begged him to stop many times, and he keeps saying he knows it's wrong, but if that phone buzzes, out it comes. I don't want to have an angry confrontation about it, but short of that I feel like nothing will change. What can I do?
Don't even get me started. We are all so hypnotized by our devices these days that it's compromised our very instinct for survival.
People are crashing cars, walking into traffic and phone poles, tumbling down flights of stairs, hitting pedestrians or being hit as pedestrians as they stare at their devices.
I think of the poor 16-year-old from Oshawa, Ont., who, texting and wearing headphones, walked into the path of an oncoming train a couple of years ago, despite the fact there was a traffic barrier, bells and flashing lights at the crossing. And there's a video on the Internet of a guy almost walking right into a giant black bear while texting. What would our caveman ancestors, who had to crouch and hide and be all ears and eyes, have thought of that?
It's killed off huge swaths of social intercourse. How do you have a meaningful conversation with someone who keeps peeking at their phone? But that's everyone!
It's also compromised us morally, I think. We all know, now, that drinking and driving is bad, and we've stigmatized it. But although most of us know talking on the phone or driving while "intexticated" is wrong and illegal, something like about half of us do it anyway.
We figure we can "handle" it. But what if you can't? What if in that moment you hit someone? You might never "lol" again.
I certainly don't want to be killed by some moron texting "ur so hot."
But sometimes, as I bike or walk around, seeing everyone in their cars looking down and surreptitiously thumb-typing while they drive, I think that's exactly how my ticket will get punched. RIP Dave LOL.
And I'd hate maybe even more to be at the other end of that transaction. I've never met anyone who killed anyone texting and driving, but I have met someone who killed a 12-year-old while driving drunk: his life, his marriage, the kid's parents' lives – many lives were destroyed in that moment.
So if it were me, I would tell your partner you won't stand for it while you and/or the kids are in the car – to the point where if he persists, insist on confiscating his phone.
Tell him whatever urgent multitasking business he seems to feel cannot wait until the end of the car ride – text, e-mail, phone call, something he wants to Google – you'll handle it.
Expect pushback. Like all addicts, he will likely experience symptoms of withdrawal. But remind him his beloved phone will be right within earshot, and he will also be able to see it. You can read texts aloud to him, he can dictate his responses, or whatever else.
Remind him you and your children have rights as passengers – one of them being not to die in a fiery crash because he can't keep his hands off his device.
As to what to do when you're not in the car – well, that's a bit trickier. Obviously he is an adult and should be responsible for whatever he does, but when someone is an addict they do not necessarily make the greatest, most grown-up decisions. I'd try to elicit some sort of promise he won't text and drive even when you're not around – but that might be a tall order, and you'd never know if he were sticking to it.
Personally I'm not even crazy about hands-free devices, because the driver's mind is elsewhere, thinking non-driving-related thoughts. But that may be a losing, quixotic battle on my part, and I don't necessarily want to die on that hill. I suppose if you land on him agreeing to use his hands-free at all times it'd be an okay compromise.
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