Drinking/texting and driving: the passenger’s side

Have you ever been in a situation where your friend or family member has picked you up – possibly over the limit, or using their phone whilst driving? How does it make you feel? Do you speak up or keep quiet? Arguably, there are many reasons why you would speak up – your life, the driver’s, other road users are at risk. But what if you don’t speak up? The excuses for not doing so seem valid at the time – undeniably ignoring the kick of anxiety.

Scenario 1) You’ve had a night out, all made memories together that you probably won’t remember in the morning. Student life is hitting the bank account hard – even the end-of-the-night McDonalds was deserted because of Chicken Legend financial costs. One friend (in fact, the only friend who was stupid enough to bring a car to university and commit to group taxi-driver) offers you a lift home – of course you accept, that’s rule no. 1 for money saving as a student, free car ride over a pricey taxi any day.

“If you know the driver’s over the limit, simply don’t get in the car”

Getting into the front seat you realise they’ve had more than they were planning to. How far over the limit are they? What if they get pulled over by the police? No… it’ll be fine. Chances of that happening are slim. They’ve driven you countless times, and you feel safe with their driving – but, they’ve never driven you when drunk. Oh well, it’s only a 5-minute journey. What can go wrong in 5 minutes? Plus, they’ve kindly offered you the lift… it’s rude to turn around and question how much they’ve had to drink, and would it make things awkward for the friendship? Probably. What gives you the right to speak up when no one else in the car has. A 5-minute journey never hurt anybody. You’ll watch their driving… make sure everything is safe.

The response: If you know the driver’s over the limit, simply don’t get in the car. Tell others – don’t get in the car. And tell the driver – don’t drive the car. Okay so you have to get a taxi, you’re £5 short for the rest of the week, but compare that to the catastrophic events which, by getting in the car, you are condoning. By not speaking up about drunk driving, you are endangering the lives of anyone who will come into contact with that driver. Who wants that on their conscience? Obviously, you get the supernatural beings who insist that alcohol doesn’t affect them and that they’re ‘fine’. Well, you can tell them from me, I have lost childhood friends because of people who claimed they were ‘fine’. It is never ever worth the risk, so don’t take it.

“Telling someone they’re in the wrong is a difficult thing to do”

Scenario 2) Shotgun again. En-route into town, DJ responsibility. The driver reaches for their phone – takes their eyes off the road, and one hand off the wheel: “Just changing the music”. Hands and eyes are back on the road – it’s fine. *Phone pings – Snapchat from “bae”* Driver reaches for their phone again, and opens the message. 20 seconds later, they’re back to driving legally again – no crash, their multi-tasking skills are credible. “Shit! I forgot to wish Mum a happy birthday!” Really? Can’t it wait? But who are you to tell them to hold off another 2 minutes. It’s their mum’s birthday… You’d do the same. Probably.

The response: Driving and texting? Simply, call them out on it. If they’re a decent person, they’ll understand and probably appreciate you being honest with them. Offer to have hold of their phone, type messages or change the song. Say you want to do it. If they’re your friend, tell them how uncomfortable it makes you feel. Remind them of how much trouble they could be in. They’re responsible for your life whilst you’re their passenger, so there’s nothing wrong with speaking your mind. Be tactful, be clear, and just have common sense.

Telling someone they’re in the wrong is a difficult thing to do. Especially if it’s someone you’re close to, look up to even. You don’t want to be seen to be lecturing them or asserting power, but at the end of the day, what’s more important; your relationship with them, or your life?

Ellie Wright and Emily Hall

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Image courtesy of James Palinsad on Flickr. Image use license here. No changes made to this image.

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