A Personal Story – Texting While Driving

May 30, 2019

I want to share a personal story with you about auto accidents and how they can impact lives.

Recently, I traveled to Maui to attend a memorial service for my best friend from childhood. She had lived in Maui and was killed in an auto accident.

Waiting at lovely Ukumehame Beach State Park

While driving to the memorial from Kihei to Lahaina, we were delayed due to an accident on the highway. We pulled over and waited beach side and listened to the sound of the waves and the radio. The broadcaster informed us that the delay may be longer than usual due to the accident involving a fatality and an investigation. That sad news and then witnessing an ambulance, coroners van and two wreckers carrying the crunched van and mangled mid-sized truck drive by us added to our sadness and sobriety of an already somber day. That defining moment was a huge reminder to me of how fragile our lives really are.

The aftermath of what we witnessed had happened because a young man who while texting tried to pass a vehicle and drove head on into the mid-size truck, killing its driver. The young man lived, but the man in the other lane did not.

The National Safety Council reported that in 2018 there were 1.6 million crashes due to cell phone use and 390,000 injuries caused while texting and driving. Accidents caused by texting drivers are 6x more likely to happen than accidents involving a drunk driver. In the US, 47 states have laws banning texting while driving and issue violations for it because it’s DANGEROUS. Per the CDC, when you read or send a text message, you take your eyes off the road for on average, 4.6 seconds. That is long enough to cover the length of a football field while driving 55 mph and just enough time to drift into another lane or not see traffic stopped ahead of you. A driver that causes an accident with a fatality and is found to have been texting can be charged with vehicular homicide or manslaughter with an aggravating factor.

While on the road, I regularly see distracted drivers. Almost every time, it’s due to a cell phone.  I think we have all seen someone driving erratically only to later see as we pass them that they either have a cell phone in their hand or are looking down at it on their lap. I’m no exception. I have let my phone distract me in my vehicle, mostly to look at GPS when I have been looking for an alternate route to get to my destination. Well, no more! I finally got the message. I will never forget seeing the mangled vehicle of that unfortunate man who had no idea he’d be the victim of someone’s terrible decision to text while driving. His family who will never see him again didn’t either. It could happen to any of us, but I would never want to be the person who lived knowing I was responsible for killing someone else because my text message couldn’t wait.

Please have a conversation with yourself and your family about the importance of abstaining from texting while driving. It’s ESPECIALLY important to have a conversation (or many) conversations with any young drivers in your household. There are have been far too many tragic stories involving young drivers, cell phone usage and auto accidents.  Together, let’s work to change the culture about texting and driving because we all deserve to make it home safely to one another every single day.

Tracey Bartel