How do I tell my friend to stop checking her phone while driving?
October 9, 2013 7:02 AM   Subscribe

My friend checks her email constantly while driving. How do I get her to stop?

I ride as a passenger in a car with my roommate about 5 times a week. She and I drive to work together, and this is my only mode of transportation to work. The trip is about 10-15 minutes in the car, along a main road that is pretty twisty. We also drive through a busy college campus. We are both in our 30s.

My problem is that she checks the email program on her phone constantly while she drives - just refreshing the page. Her eyes are not on the road and I think this is dangerous. I also don't understand the point; we will be at a computer in 15 minutes, so in my mind there is no reason to even look at a phone. I don't usually look at my phone during the ride, for example.

We have talked about driving and texting and she is really against it. I don't think she realizes that looking at her email is the same thing. She is really sensitive and I am worried that asking her to stop is just going to upset her. How can I approach this kindly and make her stop this behavior (ideally always, but at least when I'm a passenger)?

This is part of a larger problem where she constantly has her nose in her phone and doesn't seem to realize it. She talks a lot about how rude it is when people check their phones in company but is the only one in our friend group that is constantly looking at her phone when we are socializing. So there seems to be a larger disconnect here - she doesn't seem to realize that she is always on her phone, even while she is driving.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Stop driving into work with her unless she stops checking her phone while you're in the car.
posted by xingcat at 7:10 AM on October 9, 2013 [12 favorites]

Do not ride in a car with a distracted driver. You are risking your life.

Do one of these:
1. Tell her you won't ride with her unless she keeps the phone in her purse.
2. Offer to be the driver.
3. Find another way to get to work.

Stop risking your life.
posted by valannc at 7:10 AM on October 9, 2013 [25 favorites]

Have you ever talked to her about this specifically? If you've talked about driving and texting it should not be a hard transition. As in, "Can I bring up something personal with you that I'm concerned about" Note: it's concern about her, not annoyance on your part. Never mind the thing about checking her phone in social situations. It's safety you're concerned about it. "You've told me you're against people driving and texting, right?" Right. "Well, here's what I'm concerned about." And explain it just like you explained it to us. "I'm concerned about your safety, and mine also, of course, when I'm riding with you. But I assume you do this at other times when you are driving. Maybe you don't realize how often you are doing this and how often your eyes are off the road." Then (this is important) shut up and wait for her to react, admit, make some kind of commitment. It may take some more palaver, but once you've broached the subject, if you get along in all other ways, you should be able to resolve it.
posted by beagle at 7:13 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

You haven't yet asked her to stop? This is your life you're talking about. Ask her! If she's sensitive, all the better -- maybe that means she'll actually cut it out.
posted by chowflap at 7:14 AM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

She is really sensitive and I am worried that asking her to stop is just going to upset her.

Stop worrying about that and instead worry about your life, and the innocent lives she may hurt one random morning.

"I don't mean to be rude, but please keep your eyes on the road and off your phone while you're driving. Seriously, you know how dangerous that can be, and I wish you'd stop doing it."

If she tries to blow it off, dismiss your observation, or in any other way indicates that she will not be changing her habit, then you just find a new way to work. You don't even need to explain why unless she asks.
posted by General Tonic at 7:16 AM on October 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

She is your friend, this is your mode of transportation and it would be difficult to just find a new way to work, so you can absolutely say something.
Just say it nicely -- not a big ultimatum like "I will stop riding with you if you check your phone" (although you might very well do so if she doesn't wind up heeding you.)
I would just say, "Friend, sorry but it really makes me nervous when drivers check their phone while driving. Could you please not do that while we're driving? It's hard for me to relax in the car."
If she's like most people, she'll say "Sorry, OK!" and put it away for your comfort even if not for her own safety.
Next day when she does it again you can kind of laugh and say thing?
Just treat it like it's not a Horrible Big Conversation, be direct and normal.
posted by third rail at 7:16 AM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

You need to say something and I think that beagle has a good script.

It's called Distracted Driving and it encompasses both texting and looking at the phone.

Don't drive with her if she won't comply.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:16 AM on October 9, 2013

Being dead will also upset her. Just tell her that she needs to put the phone away while she drives. You could even offer to hold it for her.
posted by alms at 7:39 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Completely independent of driving, I (and by extension I assume most people) have literally no idea how often I check my phone. Every once in a while something will clue me in and I'll actually notice, and sometimes I see that I've made two independent phone appraisals in less than 60 seconds. THAT SHIT IS INSANE. Insane.

When I notice this I make a concerted effort to not touch my phone until a certain amount of time has elapsed. What generally happens is that if I ignore the immediate must-look-at-phone twinge, I manage to forget about the phone until it actively makes a noise again.

So just tell her, "hey friend, you look at your phone a lot. Do you realize how often you check your phone? It's your own prerogative, but when you're driving it scares the living crap out of me. Could you please leave your phone in your bag while we're driving to work?"

If she's even remotely human she'll say of course.

And then you can joke with her when she inevitably reaches for it within the next 90 seconds without even realizing it.
posted by phunniemee at 7:40 AM on October 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

I just wanna throw out there that you should totally bring this up, but do it when you aren't in the car. It's so much easier to have difficult conversations about behaviour with some time and distance between the behaviour. Then once you've had that initial conversation, the groundwork is already there for you to point it out when she inevitably and unintentionally does it in the car. It removes so much defensiveness from the conversation.

When my wife wants me to stop eating a box of cookies a day, that conversation goes much better when I don't have an Oreo in my hand.
posted by Sternmeyer at 7:57 AM on October 9, 2013 [7 favorites]

She is really sensitive and I am worried that asking her to stop is just going to upset her. 

What if she was driving at moments with her eyes shut? Still concerned about her sensitivities?
posted by Kruger5 at 7:58 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

She is really sensitive and I am worried that asking her to stop is just going to upset her.

NOT asking her to stop is literally actually and factually risking not only your life but the lives of other drivers and/or pedestrians.

If it were me I would tell her one time that she should fucking quit that shit. The next time it happened I would wait til we were at a stop sign or a red light and snatch the phone from her hand and throw it out the window.

Also I would never get in a car with her again but I assume post snatching incident I would not be welcome.
posted by elizardbits at 8:05 AM on October 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

She is really sensitive and I am worried that asking her to stop is just going to upset her.

If she kills someone as a result of her distracted driving, she will be devastated. Better to deal with a short bout of potential upset than a lifetime of remorse. You are doing her a favor by bringing this up.
posted by corey flood at 8:07 AM on October 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

My mom is constantly checking her phone while she drives. When I'm in the car with her, I usually say something like "ARE YOU TRYING TO KILL ME?" But, she's my mom, and we yell at each other all the time.

You could try a more diplomatic tactic, like asking her if she's expecting something really important that can't wait, and offering to check her phone for her.

It's okay if your friend feels upset when you talk to her about this. She's doing something that is unsafe and she is making you nervous. Her being upset is not the end of the world, or necessarily the end of your friendship, and it's not your job to keep her from ever being upset when her actions negatively impact the world around her.
posted by inertia at 8:08 AM on October 9, 2013

What's wrong with the direct approach? She picks up her phone, you say "hey, that's really dangerous, can you not do that while you're driving please?"
posted by ook at 8:19 AM on October 9, 2013

You could take a "this is what friends are for" approach. A true friend does two things: is there for you when you are sick or injured, and tells you things that other people are too afraid to tell you. So tell her that as her friend, you feel it's important for her sake and other people (everyone else on the road) that she be aware that she's engaging in an unsafe practice and you cannot continue to ride in her car if she does that. I don't think you should offer to check her phone for her (that just enables her to continue with this obsession), but instead you could offer to hold her phone for her so she is not tempted.
posted by Dansaman at 8:21 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

Some things you really, really have to talk about even if they're going to upset the other person, and actions that endanger lives are at the top of that list.

My script would be something like "Friend, I really appreciate your driving me to work. I've noticed that on the drive, you keep checking your phone and your eyes aren't on the road. I know it's a short drive and you've done it a hundred times, but all the same it scares me - you know how dangerous distracted driving can be. Can you please put your phone away when you're driving? If you can't, I'll need to look into an alternate way to get to work."

And follow through on that; find any other way of transportation if at all possible. Got any other friends who can give you a lift? Can you afford a cab? Can you walk? Will she let you drive her car so she can keep checking her phone?

For now, don't worry about her sticking her nose in her phone when she's hanging out or at dinner or whatever. Just focus on the driving.
posted by Metroid Baby at 8:22 AM on October 9, 2013

This is part of a larger problem where she constantly has her nose in her phone and doesn't seem to realize it. She talks a lot about how rude it is when people check their phones in company but is the only one in our friend group that is constantly looking at her phone when we are socializing. So there seems to be a larger disconnect here - she doesn't seem to realize that she is always on her phone, even while she is driving.

Excessive phone use is kind of like being a hipster - it's something only other people do. It's a special kind of special pleading.

The world is full of folks who decry how other people always seem to be glued to their phones, how other people can't seem to just put the thing in their pocket and live, man, or how rude it is to be constantly on your phone in social contexts. Because, of course, these are things that are also being done by the person complaining - but their reasons are different. Their emails are important. Or whatever.

Also, everyone I know who texts while driving, or checks their phone while driving, believes that they are capable of doing it and that other people, the ones who get into accidents, are not.

So that's what you're dealing with here.

What I would do in your situation is this: I would ask her if, as a favor to me, she could please not look at her phone while she's driving with me in the passenger seat. Feel free to phrase it as self-effacingly as you like - "Just for the sake of my nerves, you know?" Also, yeah, offer to check her phone for her if she's expecting an important email.

This way, you're not really asking her not to look at her phone while driving - you're asking her not to look at her phone while driving when you're in the car, which may be a slightly easier pill to swallow.

Give her a couple chances to fuck up, because that's what people do, but if she can't or won't stop, you need to find alternate transportation.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 8:23 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I would shout "Jesus, what the hell are you doing?" when she looked at her phone. Then I would ask her if she'd like me to check her e-mail for her, in case there's something urgent she's waiting for. I know there isn't something urgent, but maybe that would help draw her attention to what she's doing.
posted by The corpse in the library at 8:37 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Fuck her.

Take the phone away. Take it away.

Fake an accident. Scream OH MY GOD and when she freaks, say TOLD YOU.

Send her a video of texting and driving and people telling real stories of loved ones lost due to this stupidity.

No room for people's sensitivities when lives are on the line.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:54 AM on October 9, 2013 [5 favorites]

I once threatened to jump out of a moving car and accused my then-fiance of trying to kill me because he was being slightly inattentive to the road.

I can confirm that this works, if you can't think of another way.

If you intend to continue riding in the car with her while she tries to kill you, which it sounds like you're going to because you need a ride and are afraid of hurting her feelings, you have the right to ask her to put her phone down every time she picks it up. Every time. When you've said it out loud 20-30-40 times in a single commute, it may actually register beyond her addiction centers that it's happening a lot.

You can also keep a tally. "Please put your phone down. One. Please put your phone down. Two."

You get to be an asshole about this. She is being wrong - ethically, morally, criminally wrong - on every single possible level and she may resent you in the way that addicts do when they are called on their behavior. But do you want to be an accessory to manslaughter? Or the victim? Shut it down.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:19 AM on October 9, 2013 [8 favorites]

I came in to recommend the Werner Herzog PSA as well. Sit down with her and watch it. Force her to talk about it. Remind her that she is tacitly saying that her email/text is more important than every surrounding person's life. Ask her if she really believes that. Smack her. Etc.

Thanks for doing this!
posted by nosila at 9:22 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Send her this in an email:

Hey [friend] - can we play this game in the car on the way to work?
phone stacking game

I have noticed you have it out the whole trip. I think a) I can win and b) it would be a good habit.

If she says no then you need to follow one of the more serious scripts from the other wise users in this thread.
posted by skrozidile at 9:26 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you have any other transportation options at all, use them and refuse to get in the car with her. And I say this as someone who has accepted some less-than-ideal rides for lack of better options.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:41 AM on October 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I haven't read all of these responses, but I'm more of a proponent of coming at things from a nicer, comparably-direct-but-still-thoughtful-of-their-feelings-kind of approach. I'd probably say something like, "yo friend, I probably do this a lot too," or "sorry to be kind of a [whatever], but could you try not to check your email when you're driving. It kinda freaks me out." Or tease her a little. In a friendly way. I feel like that's what smallscale teasing is for.

Obviously it totally depends on your relationship with her. If she could take it straight, then that's probably optimal, but a lot of friendships aren't really constructed like that. I understand that you wouldn't want to add tension to your friendship.

You could even use that phrase - "I understand that you like to check your email - I always check mine too - but dude [I use dude a lot], could you try not when you're driving? It scares me."
posted by mrmanvir at 9:58 AM on October 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

First, mention your worries to her. Please put your concerns about her delicate feelings aside. This is your life (and hers!) that you're talking about. Next time she takes her eyes off the road tell her to pull over and get out of the car. When she asks why, tell her that you don't want to die because she isn't paying attention. Find another way into work. Honestly, this isn't about her feelings, it's about you not getting killed.
posted by patheral at 11:08 AM on October 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

A friend of mine was seriously injured by a distracted driver while she was in a crosswalk, so this one really hits home for me.

I would bring it up at a time when you're not in the car (otherwise you might end up making your friend even more distracted if she does tend to get sensitive/upset about these types of things).

I'm guessing part of what makes you uncomfortable about asking this is that you're receiving a one-sided, huge favor from your friend -- as a fellow car-less person, I can feel weird about asking additional stuff from friends who give me rides, and that's only on an occasional basis. Still, because I know that I will never 'return the favor' (i.e. I may do other favors for these friends, but I will never give them a ride), it can be a weird dynamic. Understandably, you don't want to feel like you're putting an extra imposition on your friend when she is already doing you an enormous favor that is saving you a ton of money. I get that, totally! So, at least mentally, I think it may be helpful for you to think about the innocent third parties that could easily be harmed by her behavior. I don't know if I'd start with that framing when you first talk to her about this - I would try to keep at least initial conversations casual. But, it may help you feel better about asking for 'something else' if you realize this is a big deal and not only about you.
posted by rainbowbrite at 11:40 AM on October 9, 2013

She's just refreshing the app to check for new email? Gently suggest that she set up an email alert that makes a sound whenever she gets new email. Maybe then she will be more open to keeping the phone on the back seat or with you, and letting you check if she does get an email.

Of course the email alert may drive you nuts when you're home with her, but at least you'll be alive and stuff. (And there are other apps that will let you program the email app to only alert her when she's away from home, if this suggestion ends up working.)
posted by payoto at 3:15 PM on October 9, 2013

nthing the Herzog PSA. It's very effective.
posted by humboldt32 at 8:18 AM on October 10, 2013

I agree with St. Peepsburg. When she's busy driving and looking at her phone suddenly yell out "WATCH OUT!! STOP!!!" as though she's about to hit something or someONE. It just might be the wake-up call she needs and it will reinforce your point that she's NOT paying attention to driving which is the ONLY thing she needs to be doing behind the wheel.

If she's pissed at you for scaring her, all the better! Tell her that's how you feel every day getting in the car with her. If, after this, she doesn't change her ways, change yours. Never get in a car with her again unless her phone is out of reach and the ringer turned off!

Good luck.
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 9:01 AM on October 10, 2013

Say to her "hey, can I see your phone for a sec?" and then don't give it back until you get to work.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 6:26 PM on October 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

« Older Is it worth it to leave Moscow (SVO) airport...   |   How to figure out which news story is trending the... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.