TransOptions Newsletter

Distracted Driving Hits Home At TransOptions

By Anne Vivino

On Saturday, October 28, 2012, the news was everywhere that we must begin preparing for Hurricane Sandy. I had been watching the Weather Channel all morning and decided that I had better start making my grocery list of emergency items. As I was doing this, I decided to call the hurricane expert, my mom. As a Floridian, I knew that she would know exactly what we should have on hand.

I pulled my cellphone from my purse and it was dead. I plugged in the phone and immediately saw a message from my brother from 8:30 a.m.  I thought it was odd, but figured he was checking in to make sure we were ready for the hurricane. This was the phone message he left me: 

"I'm sorry to be calling you this early, but last night Mommy was in a horrible car crash, she was in the middle of a 6-car pileup. She is in critical condition and in ICU, but it looks like she's going to make it. Call me back as soon as you get this message."

WHAT? It was already 1:30 p.m. and I was just hearing this now? I immediately began to shake. I was shocked and terrified and I felt helpless. I didn't know any details and when I tried to call family, I couldn't get through to anyone. I just kept thinking, "how could this be?"

My mom is a very careful driver she never uses her cell phone in the car and knows how important it is to me that she is a focused driver. She did everything she was supposed to do as a driver, but it did not matter.

On October 27, 2012, a 32 year old woman driving a 4-door pickup truck did not see the red light or the four cars stopped there. What could she have been doing to miss a red light and four stopped cars? Did she look away? Was she on the phone? We are not sure what the distraction was, but what we do know is that she slammed her truck into the back of my mom's stopped car at 45 miles per hour.

My mom’s car was the fourth car and therefore hit the car in front of her causing a chain reaction and a 6-car pileup. My mother’s car absorbed the majority of the impact. Defying the odds of a scene like this, my mother survived the crash.

She has no memory of the crash at all. As she was being cut out of her car, she told me she remembered the EMT who was tending to her asked her a series of basic questions such as, "What is your name?" and "Who is the President of the United States?" She could not answer, as she was going into shock.

The next thing she remembered was being in the hospital. My 70-year-old mother, who happens to be in phenomenal shape (at least she was before the crash), has 16 broken ribs, a broken collar bone, a broken ankle, head and facial lacerations and two black eyes.

Her car was demolished, the only personal belongings that could be retrieved from the car were from the glove box because her car now resembles an accordion. My mom has months of recovery ahead and will lose her much needed income.

My mom is a resilient lady and is already home from the hospital and getting better each day. She just received the 18-page police report that has now filled in some of the gaps in the story.

I decided that I must share her story. This crash should not have happened! I cannot imagine the guilt of the woman who crashed into my mother. What would she have felt had she killed my mother? I shake at the thought of how close to death my mother came.

Thankfully, she is still here and will have the chance to resume all the activities she loves: traveling, dancing, walking and roller skating. She has already bought a new dog stroller and is planning to buy new roller skates!

Every time we enter our vehicles and begin our journeys, we have a responsibility to ourselves and to those we share the road with. Looking away for even a moment could mean running a red light, hitting another car, or a pedestrian crossing the street.

The consequences of a second-long mistake can be forever life-altering. We may not be able to prevent the devastation of a hurricane and we can't control when our power is restored, but we do have control over our own actions and our ability to stay focused and not be a distracted driver.