Texting and Driving – a Personal Story

One evening my husband and I were lying in bed watching television. At around 10:15 we heard the front door – our son was home for the evening. There’s a sense of calm that comes over a parent, no matter how old their children, when the kids are all safely at home for the night – and that’s what I felt as the door shut and the front light went off. Then we heard a crash – the kind of crash no one wants to hear. Metal scraping, cement grinding, terrifying noise. Then we heard a girl scream, and our neighbor yelling “I’ve called 911.” Thank goodness, everyone was fine. The young girl driving the car that flipped was wearing her seatbelt (always wear seatbelts! Even in the backseat!). Though she was hanging upside down until the fire department arrived, she emerged with just a few scratches – and she was scared out of her mind.

This accident happened because the driver was reaching for her phone to read a text.

This sixteen-year-old girl, who had been driving on her own for less than a week, was so distracted by her phone that she didn’t even brake before running into my son’s car (that’s the Ford Explorer in the foreground of the photos). Though she was traveling at a low speed (15-20 mph), the force of her car was so great that it pushed his truck up onto the sidewalk and caused so much structural damage that his car has been totaled.

I tell you all these details because texting while driving is very, very risky, and really stupid. I have been guilty of doing it myself – as have most people, I imagine. We think that those 5 seconds are inconsequential, and when we hear that “ding ding” that means we’ve received a text, that text becomes more important than our safety or the safety of those around us on the road.

Here are some statistics about distracted driving (courtesy Distraction.gov):

Because text messaging requires visual, manual, and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction.

-In 2010, 3092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver and an estimated additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
-18% of injury crashes in 2010 were reported as distraction-affected crashes.
-11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
-40% of all American teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put people in danger. (Pew)
-Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves. (Monash University)
Text messaging creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted. (VTTI)
-Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent – at 55 mph – of driving the length of an entire football field, blind. (VTTI)
-Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37%. (Carnegie Mellon)

Everyone needs to stop texting and driving. Me, you, my kids, your kids, the people on the freeway weaving back and forth…it’s just too dangerous. Tell your family and friends, and don’t be afraid to tell the driver of a car you’re riding in to stop texting.

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  • Very timely story. I was just talking to my daughter, Bree about this yesterday.

  • What a great post for this time of year when the kids are out of school and people are going on vacation. And, so glad the girl was okay with even flipping her car at that speed. I am guilty of the text distraction at times too, so thanks for the lifesaving reminder.
    Your fan,

    • True about summer – so many more kids on the road at all hours. I have taken to leaving my phone in my purse in my backseat – with bluetooth I can make a call if necessary without my phone, though I’m even trying to stop being on the phone while driving, too.

  • Laurie

    I passed this along to my kids as a reminder that this can and will happen. So important to remember that we can’t do these two things at the same time without putting our lives and other lives (and property) at risk. Thanks for reminding us.

  • Carol

    This is such an important column, Sharon..hope everyone reads it and heeds it!

  • How people think they can look down, read small print, and move their fingers around on a tiny keyboard all while maneuvering an automobile is beyond me–and super scary to boot.Thanks for sharing.

    • Teenagers think they are immortal. I was glad my son and daughter (though not teenagers!) were there to see and hear the consequences on a very minor level. They have both sworn off texting and driving – I just hope they stick with their promise!

  • Absolutely loved your post and so glad that your son was safe. Can you even imagine a couple more seconds and it could’ve been much worse. Thanks for the reminder. Love the family treee, so cute!!!

    • And, if his car hadn’t been there, she quite possibly would have driven into our garage wall or a large tree in our front yard – and could have been hurt much more seriously.

  • Claudia

    I just read this to my soon to be 16 year old. So glad everyone is ok.

  • Christy

    Such a fear of mine … I am in sales and on the road all day. It is so easy to pick that phone up even when we know we shouldn’t. I have small children and I have to remind myself everyday they are watching my behavior. Their safety has to be more important than anything else! Wether they are in the car with me or not … I want to tuck them in each night! No texting and driving!

  • Although my son has been guilty of texting and driving, I worry about my husband’s practices even more. I don’t agree with it, but at least when the son texts, he doesn’t take his eyes off the road for even a second. Of course, he must have looked to respond. I feel like a broken record with these two. They won’t listen no matter what I say. BTW, adult children are far more hard headed than teenagers.

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