My community suffered a devastating tragedy this past week, and it has hit terribly close to home! Just 2 blocks from where Jim was injured last March, a woman was struck and killed while walking her dogs. In broad daylight... On a residential street...
Details have not yet been released: I have no idea what may have been distracting the driver. Surely something else had the attention of the operator of the vehicle. In a split second, 2 families' lives were changed forever. Heartache that all concerned will have to live with every single day!
I often find myself reflecting on our circumstances. No words can truly express how deeply blessed we feel that Jim has made such a good recovery. I have explored ways to become a voice for people in similar situations, and for those who have suffered far more than we. I've come to believe that I'm called to communicate with individuals about how each of us can be part of making a difference.
The ever-increasing number of injuries and deaths in the US is alarming, and many people and organizations are working to increase levels of safety and reverse the trend. Change will come from multiple directions, all of which must play a necessary role in bringing about a cultural shift. A shift in how and by whom roadways are used, a rethinking in regard to our own “rights”. It is imperative that we each own up to a personal sense of responsibility, an obligation, to and for those we share the roads with!
There are a great many things that distract can us while driving. When mere seconds can be the difference between life or death, those distractions can become deadly. And yet, many of us gamble with our own lives and that of those around us day after day!
I've observed drivers doing a lot of different activities while behind the wheel. There was the young woman who, over the course of many blocks, did her make-up and hair. Moms who turn to pass food and drinks to children in the back seat. Even people changing their clothes. I've actually heard of drivers seen knitting or shaving!
We all live life at a harried pace, spending a great deal more time in our vehicles than we'd like. Many of us pride ourselves on our ability to multi-task, and it's seems natural to use commute time to accomplish additional tasks. We've convinced ourselves that, in spite of glancing at our phone or taking a bite of a sandwich, we are still driving conscientiously.
I've never forgotten my visit with a personal injury lawyer several years ago. He started the interview with a question – wondering if at the time of the incident I had food, drink or a cell phone in my hand. It was his policy to refuse to represent anyone who had been distracted in those ways, whether or not fault in the collision was attributed to them. He went on to explain that if a driver's hands were holding anything except the steering wheel, he considered it an indefensible case. His personal opinion, after many years as one of the country's most respected personal injury litigators, was that drivers who choose to engage in activities which are distracting put others at needless risk. Period!
What a lot has changed in the years since that conversation! In today's world, drivers who injure or kill others all too often get off with minimal penalties. If there are even any consequences at all. In an inordinate number of collisions, distracted driving plays a key role. A fine of less than $100, and no other penalties, for the SUV driver that killed one bicyclist and seriously injured another! The driver who hit my Jim didn't even receive a citation!
I tend to experience “tunnel vision” when my attention is not focused fully on driving. Rather than a wide overview that is watchful and alert, my field of vision closes into a smaller circle around my own vehicle. When I allow something to pull my field of vision inward, it takes purposeful intent to refocus on the wider surroundings.
A few months ago I decided to remove things that distract me while driving. My cell phone and day planner are placed at a distance where I can't glance at or reach for them. They remain there except when I'm safely parked. I expected that it would prove challenging, but it hasn't really. It's amazing how much more clear-headed and focused I feel while driving! Too many of us have convinced ourselves of the necessity of keeping such items close at hand. But thinking that way blinds us to the reality: the potential destruction of distracted driving far outweighs any perceived convenience. NO momentary diversion is worth the life of another human being!
While my community grieves the loss of Dr. Karen Trujillo, I also mourn the fact that distracted driving has become such an accepted part of our society. We cannot, we must not, settle for continuing acceptance of such destructive behavior!
WE CAN DO BETTER!