Distracted driving almost killed Mom

Published 10:56 pm Monday, October 27, 2014

Recently, my mother suffered traumatic leg and hip injuries while walking her dog. Luckily, a neighbor happened by before 7 a.m. and found her lying in the street. She had been there some time and had hit her head, her elbow, and broken her femur and hip. She could not move and likely had fainted. While things like this do happen too often to our sweet family women, this one may have been very different; this reality brings the purpose of my letter.

After praying over my mother in the street, our angel-neighbor and his dog ran up Second Avenue to a family member’s house to get help. As mother lay in the street, she tried to move out of the way but realized something was terribly wrong because she couldn’t drag her broken bones. As our neighbor neared the corner less than 50 feet away from where my mother lay, he began jumping, yelling, and waving at an oncoming SUV of a dark color, maybe gray or blue, turning on Second Avenue from East Three Notch Street. Mother could see the vehicle bearing down on her and felt surely it was going to hit her. It was so close that she could see the bottom of the bumper just before the young lady swerved quickly around her, thankfully missing her. My mother was nearly run over in the street by this young woman and our neighbor probably saved her life by waving her and getting her attention. The real issue? The driver was using her cell phone. She didn’t stop, perhaps not realizing that it was a human being in the street. Our neighbor continued on his way to get help, but not before seeing the young woman driver with cell phone in hand as she continued up Second Avenue. Maybe she was in a hurry. Maybe she was upset or had her own emergency to attend. Still, I am struggling to forgive her for nearly running over and then passing by a woman’s body in the street because she was too busy with her phone to notice.

I write this letter not to cast blame or show anger. I am an educator and have worked with secondary-level students for 21 years, so I know this is prevalent in young people. Let’s be honest though, just as many adults can be seen with phone in hand while driving. I have arranged memorials for two students over the last three years at my school due to cell phone-related distracted driving. This preventable devastation would have affected two families here in Andalusia, not just one, and the outcome would be insurmountable. Can any of us imagine the devastation of hitting and killing another human being while using our cell phones while driving? Can you imagine if she was your daughter driving the car?

Even with features that allow us to talk-and-text or voice-command a phone call, we are distracted and steal glances at the phone to see that all is well. I implore you, Unnamed Young Woman Driver of the SUV who nearly hit my mother lying in the road and kept driving: put down your phone and drive safely. If leaving the cell phone aside is not an option, there are apps that range from free to $5 that restrict phone access if a vehicle is traveling more than 10 mph. Emergency features make technology tools like these safe to use in urgent situations but can still deliver a message to a caller or text-sender to say, “I’m driving and I can’t take your call at this time.” Parents can access and check that the young driver in a family has not deactivated the app to use a cell phone and drive. There are solutions if self-control is not one of them; but Unnamed Young Woman Driver in the SUV, please think again and realize your near-fatal mistake.

I come from a family of strong women who believe in community relationships. We have roots in Andalusia and branches all over the country. I have often bragged, “The South knows how to treat its elders.” Andalusia, as a tight-knit, special Southern town, would be forever changed if an accident like this had happened. Praise God it did not, but it’s time we all take a stand and stopped careless driving while using cell phones. It’s an epidemic and left untreated, such a tragedy is only a matter of time. Because I care about my mother and I care about you, Unnamed Young Woman Driver of the dark-colored SUV, I implore you to put your cell phone away while you’re driving.


Betsy L. Wyatt