I would tell you my name, but it’s not important. It doesn’t matter who I am, where I’m from, or how old I am – what matters is my message. My story. Listen closely because I don’t know if I have time to repeat myself. This story starts approximately three hours, forty-two minutes, and twenty-six seconds ago when I sprinted to my car. There were only ten minutes before the concert started and fifteen minutes of travel time blinking back at me from my GPS. There was no time for buckling up; it didn’t even cross my mind as I sped out of our cul-de-sac. I’d like to interject here that I’m normally a safe driver. My brother even says I’m overly cautious. But, at that moment, I made a decision: punctuality over my safety. My left knee kept bouncing up and down while my right foot pressed steadily harder on the gas pedal. With one hand on the wheel and one hand holding my phone, my attention was diverted between the road and the directions. “Come on, come on,” I muttered under my breath. I glanced at the clock on my radio. Seven minutes left. A flicker of my eyes down to my phone and – CRUNCH. I didn’t even see it coming. After I hit the truck, everything is a blur. Intense pain. Muffled sirens. Blurry lights. I opened my eyes, but I didn’t see the ceiling of the room or the night sky or even the mangled top of my car. I saw me. Me, but not-me. Because surely that pale, bruised body wrapped in gauze with tubes coming out of every visible orifice on her face could not be me. A glance to my left, and there’s my mother. Sitting on a chair and looking as white as the bandage wrapped around my forehead, she gently holds my hand. I can’t hear, but I can see that her shoulders are shaking. I can see the alligator tears rolling down her cheeks and dripping onto the hospital bed. She bites her lip, trying to keep it together, but the pain in her eyes is so real, so sharp, that I have to look away. I look away only to be confronted by the vision of my father. Jaw tight, shoulders tight, knuckles tight – everything stiff – as he stares out the window into the night sky. He’s never been one to show a lot of emotion, but I can tell he’s fighting back tears now. Tears and – I’m shocked to see – anger. Then, when I think about it, I’m not surprised. If it were either of them lying in that bed, I would be just as angry. Angry that they thought a GPS coordinate was more important than their life; angry that they were selfish; angry that they didn’t think of the impact their injuries, or possible death, would have on me, their loved one. Suddenly, I wished I had thought about how important I am to those closest to me. I wished I had paused to realize that concert wasn’t more important than my life. I wished I had understood the dangers of driving while distracted and that it wasn’t harmless. What I’m trying to say, dear reader, as I look at my own comatose body, is protect yourself from distracted driving. Realize your importance and worth in this world. Understand that your life is more than just a concert, text, or whatever else that is keeping your focus from the road. Know that you are more. And then drive like it.
This piece of writing came from a place of conviction in my own life. More often than not, I’m in a rush. Sometimes I underestimate how long I need to get ready or how long it takes me to travel from one place to another. I’ll run, jump into my car, and then (depending on where I’m going) whip out my phone to text that I’m running late or use my GPS for directions. I’ve always read and been informed about the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs. I equated hazards on the road to those factors. “I’m a cautious driver. I never drive under the influence, so I’m safe,” was my reasoning. Now after reading all the statistics and stories about distracted driving, I’m coming to the realization that driving while distracted – whether it’s eating, changing the radio station constantly, or even following directions on a cell phone – is just as perilous, if not more so, as driving under the influence. And the scary thing? No one even realizes it. We think it’s harmless to peek down at our phone, fix our hair, or look out the window and enjoy the scenery. My hope is that my submission can change this thinking – that it takes the ordinary and transforms it into a harrowing event that could happen to any of us. If this piece of writing makes even one person think twice about driving distracted, then I consider it a success.