Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Whatever you have to say, it can wait

We've all done it;  maybe we are stopped at a red light, maybe it's a straight away and we think we can control the vehicle, maybe we just think "it won't happen to me".  But most people have sent or read text messages while driving.  I will admit I've been guilty of it myself.  But no more.  It is not worth it.  Whatever it is I have to say can wait.

Accidents caused by distracted drivers have increased as modern technology has evolved.  Texting or talking on the phone while operating a vehicle has become acceptable and the norm.  People who are of legal age to drive do not know a world without cell phones.  Texting, cell phones, instant message and other means of communication have caused our society to become extremely impatient.  I can remember the day of Party Lines - something most kids these days don't even know the meaning of.  We had to share a phone line with up to 5 other homes in our neighborhood.  If someone was using the line when we wanted it, we had to wait our turn.  Now, every person in my family has their own cell phone.  We have become a society who does not believe in waiting.  We get upset if  someone does not answer our call or reply to our text right away.  We want an answer NOW.  Because sooner is better than later.

As of today there are 39 states which have laws against texting and driving.  Some of these laws are age specific to teens and do not address adults over age 18.  In the town that I live, law prohibits cell phone use while driving inside the city limits.  Inside the city limits is where it all happened on the night my life was nearly shattered.

It has been almost 2 years since my husband started traveling for work.  He drives 70 miles, just over an hour one way 4 days a week.  He leaves at 5:30 in the morning, works 10 hours and gets home between 6:30 and 7:00 depending upon traffic.  His travel angels have been with him through late nights, bad weather, herds of deer, road construction and even an accident or two.  He is a regular topic on our church prayer list for travel mercies and he is often heard praising and thanking God for his protection on the road.

It was a Tuesday night and Matt was headed back to town.  Instead of taking the highway to our home, he would take the Custer Ave exit and head toward the fairgrounds where he had a Rodeo committee meeting. He was anxious and excited about the upcoming Montana Pro Rodeo Circuit Finals Rodeo to be held in Great Falls the coming weekend.  With 3 kids ~ sometimes 5 if you count our grandson and his mother ~ we were both looking forward to a weekend alone out of town.  As tired as he was, he wasn't going to miss this meeting.

I was home, cooking dinner and caring for our 7 month old grandson.  Both our sons were out and our daughter and her friend were preparing for an audition they had later that evening.  When the phone rang  I honestly thought he was calling to let me know he made it to town and would be home as soon as the meeting was over. 

"I'm on Custer Avenue.  I just got rear ended"
"Yes.  The car is totaled"

It was with that last sentence that I could tell that the car was the least of my worries.  I could hear his voice fading and changing.  I told him I would be right there, passed instructions off to all the kids and got in my car.  I drove down the highway getting a little more nervous the closer I got to town.  As I pulled off the Custer exit I realized he didn't tell me exactly where he was.  No need.  As I came up the ramp I saw the lights, the emergency response vehicles; and then reality set it.  I came up on the wreck and parked my car but I could not find my husband anywhere.  All I saw was his car squished between a smaller car behind and a large truck in front.  Yes.  The car was totaled.  I finally found him in the front vehicle with that driver and a paramedic.  They were trying to decide if he was going to the ER via ambulance or if I would take him.  He didn't want to go at all but within minutes they had him in a neck brace and strapped to a gurney.  They would not allow me to ride with him because the driver who caused the accident was being transported as well and there was no room for me.  I phoned our oldest son and Matt's uncle.  Both came immediately.  They gave me hugs, told me to take myself to meet Matt at the ER and then proceeded to empty his vehicle for us before the tow truck arrived.   Seeing the lights and hearing the sirens as the ambulance pulled away made my stomach turn.  I drove as safe & quickly as I could. 

After a short time in the exam room I could sense that all would be fine.  The CT came back good, nothing broken, just some whiplash and a concussion.  There was even some humor as he promised me this was not keeping us from attending the Rodeo in a few days.  He sang "You can't keep a good man down" and proclaimed to have been hit harder while playing rugby;  said he has been to work feeling worse after playing tackle football with our boys and friends on Super Bowl Sunday.  I was still worried and not nearly as sure about our weekend get away has he was.  But relief set in when he recognized a comical reference I made to two years prior when our oldest son had a concussion.

The next day was met with soreness, doctor visits and calls to the insurance company.  Pain medications were a blessing.   The chiropractor referred him to the orthopedic for a concussion exam.  More doctors.  On Monday of the following week he was feeling especially sore.  While I was at work, I knew he was in town but I was unable to reach him by phone.  I called around but no one knew where he was.  After what we had just been through this was not what I needed!  After two hours I started to get frantic.  Then he called.  He was in so much pain that the chiropractor sent him in for a message.  Yes.  That is right.  He was getting a message.

It has been a week and he is still has not been cleared for work.  He will most likely not go back at all until next Monday.  We have received the settlement check for the car and now he has to shop for something reliable and comfortable for his long drives back and forth.  I am torn between being upset about all that has happened and being thankful that it wasn't any worse.  When my son was a Freshman his school lost a student in an accident that is suspected to be caused by texting while driving.  I recently saw a news segment on distracted driving and listened to stories of people who lost loved ones or who are now paralyzed.  I also heard interviews with people who caused these accidents and heard about how their lives have been effected as well.   And my mind keeps wondering back to the thought that, like these accidents, my husband's too could have been avoided.

My husband was wearing a seat belt.  But the driver who hit him never even stepped on the breaks.  To be fair, it is not confirmed that she was even texting.  She told the officer she had "looked away for a moment" and "was just not paying attention".  Texting or not, she was distracted, not focusing on what she was doing or the other drivers on the road.  The speed at which she was driving caused such an impact that it literally pushed my husband's car into the car in front of him.  Had he not been wearing his seat belt....... OK, we are not going to go there.

And then I think of this; on any other day Matt would have been on the highway instead of on this particular city street.  He should not have been where he was.  I didn't take the time to see what type of truck he was pushed into.  I just know it was big.  And I know the girl who hit him did so at such force that his car no longer had a trunk and it broke the driver's seat.  So what would have happened if Matt was not where he was?  If there was no car in between her and the truck?  What condition would she have been in had she rammed directly into the truck?  I don't believe she would be alive today.  Oh, I think I forgot to mention she was 32 weeks pregnant with a toddler at home.  Over all this time that Matt has been traveling back and forth for work we have been thankful that he had a job and have prayed for travel mercies.  I do not for one second think that God or his angles failed Matt.  I believe they fulfilled His promise by not allowing the injuries to be worse.  And as inconvenienced  as we are, as much in pain as Matt is in, I believe it was God's will for my husband to help save her.  My prayer for her is that she will think of those precious babies of hers, that she will slow down and focus on the road ahead of her ~ both literally and figuratively.  I can't image what my life would be like to not have my husband here.  I can't even begin to think of how I would tell our children that he isn't coming home.  The thought of our little grand baby and other future grand babies not knowing him just rips my heart out.  I am thankful to God that Matt is still with us.  And I think of the Family Circus comic strip with little Billy riding his skateboard and the angel running behind him exhausted and covered in band-aides.

But it all boils down to this;  Whatever you have to say, it can wait.  Pull over.  Wait until you get to where you are going.  It can wait.  I will never send a text message that requires a reply that can't wait.  I will never be impatient to the point that makes my family and friends think they have to risk replying to me while on the road.  Matt and I did enjoy a trip to out of town. I look forward to many more weekends with him.  I know other people who are victims of distracted driving are not so lucky.  I urge every driver out there to slow down.  Take a deep breath.  Be patient.  When you are driving, before you pick up that phone to text remember this:  Whatever you have to say, it can wait.