Almost a decade ago, I did a road trip with two friends to Austria. In the span of a few days, we visited several locations, and I was the designated driver, since we were using my family’s car. I’m not sure why, but I went very fast during some of our countryside drives from place to place. Perhaps we were on the clock, or maybe I just enjoyed the winding roads.
One of my passengers neither condemned nor encouraged my driving behavior, the other was visibly uncomfortable. After she voiced her concern a few times, I eventually slowed down, but it took me longer than I’d like to admit. I still remember seeing her in the back seat, almost literally holding on for dear life.
In hindsight, I’m not proud of it, but on that trip, I learned a valuable lesson: When you drive alone, you can do whatever you want. As soon as other people enter your car, however, your job is to safely get them from A to B. Nothing more, nothing less.
Now, when it comes to an activity like driving, which is heavily regulated by the law and all the other traffic participants, “whatever you want” is not as stretchable of a term as most of us would like it to be. But if it’s just you piloting your vehicle, and you run it into a concrete wall because you’re speeding, that’s your fault but also “only” your life at stake. If the same thing happens while three other people are in your car, I could think of better ways to gamble — and better chips to gamble with.
We spend a lot of time talking about “drinking responsibly” and getting people to not drive while drunk, on drugs, or in otherwise inappropriate states, and the fact that we need to do so already says a lot. We spend much less time, however, talking about driving responsibly. About choosing to comply with traffic laws, even when that compliance is optional — especially when our cargo is the most precious cargo there is: the life of the people around us.
The next time someone gets in your car, feel the change of responsibility. Take a moment to acknowledge you are now The Transporter, except your safekeeping happens with as little drama as possible, not a lot of gun fights, speeding, and explosions. Enjoy the slow cruise, keep your guests comfortable, and remember: If you go half as fast, you’ll still get there on time — and so will everyone else.