Pennsylvania Democratic congresswoman Susan Wild earlier this month chose a treacherous place to join a virtual campaign event—the middle of the road, where she was recorded zooming through traffic as her dog watched on in the passenger seat.
Wild was the honored guest at a May 11 Jewish Democratic Council of America "Jewish Dems Week of Action" event, which she joined from her car as she drove through traffic and fiddled with her phone. At one point during the video call, a recording of which was obtained bu the Washington Free Beacon, Wild acknowledged that she was driving and told fellow attendees that she wouldn't "be looking at" them because she was navigating traffic.
"Hi everybody. Susan, is that you driving?" one of the event's hosts asked the congresswoman. "I am," Wild said. "You are the ultimate multitasker," the host replied. "Well, thanks, and I'm not gonna be looking at you, but I will be talking with you," Wild later added.
A number of groups that work to combat distracted driving denounced Wild's behavior. Unite CEO Patrick DeGrasse—who manages the group's Arrive Alive Tour, which educates teens on safe driving—called Wild's move "exactly what the Arrive Alive Tour is trying to prevent" and implored the Democrat to take the group's "pledge to drive SAFE: Sober and Free of Electronics." End Distracted Driving cofounder Joel Feldman, whose daughter was killed by a distracted driver in 2009, said he admires Wild but called her decision "stupid as hell."
"I think she made a really, really bad mistake," Feldman told the Free Beacon. "I would hope that she'll look at this and say, ‘Well, you know … on second thought, it's probably not such a good thing to do.' Because it sets a really bad example for our children."
Wild did not return a request for comment. Her decision to take the Zoom call on the road was technically legal—Pennsylvania has a texting-while-driving ban, but the law only prohibits drivers from using a cell phone to "read or write a text-based communication."
StopDistractions.org president and CEO Jennifer Smith, who said she was "appalled" by Wild's behavior, called on Pennsylvania lawmakers to update the state's distracted driving legislation. Smith noted that distracted driving has increased 30 percent since the pandemic began as more people work away from the office and on the go.
"Now people are getting behind the wheel and doing things they wouldn't have normally done, like participating in Zoom calls," Smith told the Free Beacon. "And so we all have to be really conscious about what we're doing."
"This is a congresswoman. She is running for office. She should be setting an example, and she's setting an example of a deadly behavior," Smith continued. "And for all the families that have lost loved ones … due to distracted driving crashes, I think she needs to realize the danger in what she did and make sure that she doesn't do it again."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D., Calif.) husband was involved in a separate dangerous driving incident over the weekend. Paul Pelosi was arrested on suspicion of drunk driving in northern California, NPR reported.