Ask the Experts

Distracted Driving

I have a friend with a car here at school. He’s great about driving everyone around from place to place, so he’s our go-to whenever we need to make a run to the grocery store or to a big box store. He’s even cool about being the designated driver sometimes, which is great! There’s only one problem: he loves to DJ for us as he drives, using his phone to set the music. I’ve tried to bring CDs, but his car doesn’t have a CD player (do new cars not have those??), and it wouldn’t matter anyway: he’s in charge, and he wants his music on. How can I help him see that his smartphone use is freaking out his passengers?

What your friend is doing is extremely dangerous. Distracted driving kills an average of 9 Americans every day, and cell phone use alone leads to 1.6 million crashes every year. That’s horrifying, but perhaps not surprising: after all, you can travel the length of a football field in a car in the time it takes to check a text. That’s a lot of room and time to have an accident, and it helps illustrate the kind of danger that your friend is putting himself, his friends, and strangers in every time that he takes his eyes off of the road in order to queue up the next song.

So what can be done? One solution that you have clearly already thought of is to put on an album or mix to play on its own during the ride. CD players are indeed largely a thing of the past, auto dealers tell us, but you can still get them on used cars, and new cars without them often include alternatives. An auxiliary input, for instance, will let you connect an mp3 players or a smartphone to the car’s stereo via the headphone jack. If your device is part of the revolution against headphone jacks that has taken over in recent smartphone models, don’t worry–modern cars are often bluetooth-enabled as well. Failing that, look for satellite radio broadcasts–or even traditional radio broadcasts, commercials and all. Anything is better than allowing your friend to put his passengers at risk.

This situation, however, is about more than just replacing your friend’s music supply. You point out that he needs to be in charge of his music, but that’s not a good reason to risk the lives of his own friends. Clearly, there needs to be a serious conversation had between your friend and the rest of the friend group. If he doesn’t wise up, be prepared to find other ways to get where you’re going–perhaps losing his audience will make your friend realize that his DJ-ing and his DD-ing belong in separate spheres.

“People tend to be overconfident in their abilities, and the most overconfident also tend to be the least competent” ― Steven Gacovino

Miriam Metzinger is a regular contributor and editor for the financial website, Seeking Alpha.