Is Zooming behind the wheel a sign that the hectic schedules of pre-pandemic life are returning to a nation reliant on car travel? Or are politicians who support public-safety policies putting personal convenience in the era of remote work above their political stances? Either way, some are beginning to develop a nasty road habit: calling in to Zoom meetings while they’re driving.
On Tuesday, New York City councilmember Helen Rosenthal attended a finance-committee hearing while in the driver’s seat of her vehicle, peeling her attention away from the road to look at the camera and discuss classroom size. According to Politico reporter Amanda Eisenberg, Rosenthal drove from her apartment on the Upper West Side to a press conference for mayoral candidate Maya Wiley just a half-mile from her home. “I should have walked,” she told Eisenberg after being caught, adding that she did not want to be late.
It’s an unfortunate image for someone who purportedly supports safe driving initiatives and may have an imperfect driving record: The license plate for the car she was driving had three speeding tickets in school zones last year, according to the New York City parking and camera violations database How’s My Driving NY. However, she is not alone. As a review by the New York Post shows, NYC councilmembers Stephen Levin and Brad Lander have both called in to Zoom hearings from the driver’s seat in the past year. Like Rosenthal, they support rules increasing the cost of parking and driving in the city in order to encourage car owners to bike, walk, or take public transportation.
It’s unclear whether the trend will continue into the summer months or if Zooming around will become another unforced error that politicians try and fail to avoid. Regardless, it’s doubtful that any contender will unseat the king of the movement: Ohio state senator Andrew Brenner, who was recorded on a video call earlier this month driving on the same day the legislature was discussing a bill to increase penalties for distracted drivers. The timing is delicious, yes, but even better was the video feed of the Republican, who used a background image of his office to trick viewers into thinking he was at home. It was too bad that his seatbelt gave him away, though at least he looked both ways before executing a turn from his officemobile.