Dangerous Carpool

23 Dec

Dear LetterBalm: I’m fortunate to live in a community with several co-workers. The four of us take turns driving, and it saves everyone a lot of transportation costs. But one driver persists in using his cellphone and texting, even when we’ve reminded him that it’s illegal in our state. He says he does it only at stop signs and stop lights (true), so it’s no big deal. But his behavior is freaking us out because we don’t want him to risk being distracted, even when the car is stopped. How can we get him to stop doing this for good when he’s behind the wheel?

–White Knuckles

Ms. L.B. says your carmate is messing with four lives, and all of you must take action, even if you risk his anger or hurt feelings. Without discussing this with others, the three of you meet discreetly (at work? at someone’s home?) to make a plan. Here are three ideas: Starting immediately, he is not allowed to drive unless his cell is turned off and in his pocket. Or, he becomes a passenger, the schedule is reshuffled, he pays the driver gas money, and he uses his cell to his heart’s content (and everyone must be O.K. with this). Or, if he doesn’t accede to these conditions, he must make other commuting arrangements. Once you’re in agreement, one of you approach the offending driver at home to tell him what the group recommends. Be reasonable but firm and make it clear the ball is in his court:

Alvin, the carpool group has asked me to present some ideas for your consideration. We know your job is demanding and time-sensitive, but you keep on texting and calling while you’re driving us, even after we’ve asked you to stop. This is unacceptable – it’s illegal and unsafe, even if your car is stopped. We’ve discussed it and, basically, you have three immediate choices: You can stop all texting and calling and leave your phone shut off while you’re driving. Or, you can stop driving us, become a passenger, pay for gas and use your phone in the car. Or – and, we really hope it doesn’t come to this – you can quit the group and make other commuting arrangements. It’s your decision, Alvin. We all get along so well, and the carpool is so good for everybody, we hope you’ll decide to stay with us. What do you say?

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