I watch a lot of YouTube videos (because how else will I procrastinate the actual real work I have to do?), and I’ve been troubled in the past few years by the trend of YouTubers recording vlogs while they drive with cameras mounted in their cars.
Guys. Guys. I know the car mount exists. I realize it’s tempting to fill that otherwise empty time with something more distracting than keeping your eyes and mind on the task at hand, which is safely maneuvering hundreds or thousands of pounds of steel and plastic and explosive liquids to your destination without causing harm to yourself or someone else. I will spare you the lecture about distracted driving and how your car is a weapon and the number of people who are killed and injured in avoidable collisions every single day.
Instead, here’s this advice that I hope you’ll take to heart (if you have time to shut off the camera and focus on something besides your super interesting story about the place you just went to or the place you’re about to go).
When I started graduate school lo these many years ago, I went to work for my friend Pete’s dad in his law firm. At first I was just, like, filing things and running errands, but it quickly became apparent that I had the capacity to do more interesting work, and eventually one of the partners taught me to write personal injury and wrongful death settlement letters.
You see, what happens in a personal injury suit (you’re in a car accident or you’re injured on the job or you trip and fall at a business, for example), much of the time, is that no one ever actually ends up in a courtroom. Instead, most of them are resolved through mediation. And to prepare for mediation, each of the parties writes a brief that lays out their case. The plaintiff needs to show the damages they’ve suffered and the fault (even if it was just negligence) on the part of the defendant. And the defendant needs to demonstrate that the plaintiff hasn’t suffered nearly as much as they claim they have and that even if they did, the defendant isn’t responsible.
Turns out, I was pretty good at this. Scratch that — I was really good at it. Because a good PI brief is basically one part reporting, one part creative writing, one part legal analysis. The attorney did the legal analysis, and I did the reading and research and crafting of the heartbreaking story of the plaintiff’s suffering and the defendant’s negligence.
Car-mounted cameras weren’t really a thing when I was writing PI briefs. But let me tell you: If I’d had an assignment come across my desk in which we discovered that our opponent had been RECORDING A MOTHERFUCKING VIDEO WEBLOG WHEN THE COLLISION OCCURRED? I would have kicked back, poured myself an early glass of the wine we usually saved for Friday afternoons, and relaxed the rest of the week because that brief would have written itself.
And let there be no doubt here: I would have been pumped about your vehicular vlogging activity even if you were the plaintiff. I would have been thrilled about it, actually, because even if our client had cruised through a stop sign or failed to signal or otherwise been clearly at fault, your quest for YouTube fame would have just taken a dunker of a case and cast it in all kiiiiiiinds of shades of gray.
What if you had been focused on the road instead of telling your 48,204 YouTube subscribers about the minor detailing on the shoes you just didn’t buy because they were out of stock in your size but they’re going to order them for you so you’ll go back next week? What if, instead of adding to your 25-screen Instagram Story about that time in high school when you forgot your locker combination, you’d seen the other vehicle and taken evasive action? How much of your own pain and suffering could you have avoided by watching traffic instead of dreaming about your view count?
Oh, gee, am I making you sound shallow and terrible and focused on your own social media profile at the expense of public safety? Imagine how much worse you’ll feel when instead of some crackpot with a blog grinding you up in a hypothetical, it’s an actual attorney doing it.
Oh, but no, you might be saying, I record while I’m driving but I’m legit totes focused on the road.
Golly, did I make you sound unrealistically vapid there? Cool, now imagine how vapid you’ll sound when you’re answering questions about your driver’s seat vlogging IN A DEPOSITION.
And now, since we’re using our imaginations and engaging our creative selves, think about how dumb (and poor!) you’ll feel when you fail to recover your (legitimate!) medical expenses from a (minor!) auto collision because your (supes engaging!) content creation poked (a whole bunch of!) holes in your case.
We won’t even talk about what a jury, should you ever get in front of one, would think of someone who got into a car accident while filming themselves for YouTube and then sued the other driver. All I have to say there is good luck to you.
Listen, friends, I say this from a place of love. I also say it from a place of GOOD NIGHT WHY ARE YOU RECORDING VIDEOS WHILE YOU DRIVE PLEASE GO BE A CONTENT CREATOR™ IN A SETTING THAT DOESN’T INVOLVE YOU BABBLING ABOUT YOUR DAY WHILE YOU’RE DRIVING ROADS ON WHICH PEOPLE ARE TRANSPORTING THEIR CHILDREN AND OTHER LOVED ONES FOR THE SAKE OF ALL THAT IS SANE.
But if that hadn’t occurred to you, it probably isn’t going to move you.
What I hope will move you is the knowledge that somewhere, there is some smug jerk like me sitting in a law firm, just waiting to exploit your easily exploitable choice to Be A Personality in your car in a way that will definitely, absolutely, undoubtedly make you wish you would have just pulled the car over before you hit record.
You can vlog in the parking lot, kids. Trust me. I do it all the time.