On October 23, 2008, I had the unfortunate task of working a fatality that involved a young male driver. The circumstances surrounding the crash are all too common. The young man had been texting on his cell phone and attempted to pass a vehicle. He had failed to check carefully for oncoming traffic and struck another vehicle head-on.
The other vehicle was brand new; a young woman had it out for a simple test drive with an auto salesman.
The scene that day was more disturbing than usual. The roadway was littered with debris strewn from both vehicles. Both vehicles showed extensive front end damage. The vehicle being passed did not sustain any damage. The young man who was driving the passing vehicle did not survive the crash. The young lady and the car salesman sustained severe injuries.
Upon entering a scene of this severity, performing a trooper's duties can be daunting.
But we got the survivors ready to travel by ambulance to the hospital, where a long road to recovery would be certainly be required. We conducted a detailed accident investigation as usual, noting the witnesses' observations and the roadway's 65 mile-per-hour speed limit. We notified the young man's family.
The roadway was cleared, and soon traffic moved through the area as if nothing had ever happened.
But something had happened. Several families had their lives forever changed. Obviously, a crash of this nature is tragic for the people directly involved and their families. But the memories of every crash stay with every person involved--every trooper, every emergency medical technician, and every witness.
One of the saddest parts of this particular crash is that the cell phone the driver was sending his text to belonged to his brother.
Imagine what his brother must be going through even today, four and a half years later. To know that whatever message he sent you took his attention from the roadway long enough to set in motion a fatal chain of events. To know that you could have simply told your brother not to text you while he was behind the wheel.
That's what I would be thinking about today. And I would never have deleted my brother's final text.
A simple text was sent while a young man was driving. He lost his life. A young woman who began her day in excitement at the promise of owning a brand new car ended her day on a stretcher in the E.R. A salesman who was just trying to do his job and support his family faced months and months of painstaking recovery. Many more suffered and are probably suffering still. A witness who was enjoying a peaceful drive will have to live with a horrible memory.
All of this is the reality of how a few words and a brief moment of distraction can change many, many lives. All of this is what my fellow troopers and I see day after day.
You might think you can text and drive safely. But I--and my fellow Kansas State Troopers--know you can't.