Last Friday, at the very start of Memorial Day weekend, my eldest daughter called to report she’d safely made the 3-hour trip from her home in Auburn, Alabama to Ft. Walton Beach, Florida. My kids have been trained to call me as soon as any road trip is safely completed. I always “pray them there,” as my Mother used to say. “Great, have fun,” I replied, and went happily on with my day. A few hours later, I was surprised to see her name when I heard my phone ring. I assumed she’d be relaxing on a wide, white beach by now. When I answered, she was crying. “I’m fine,” she sobbed, “but we’ve been in a pretty bad accident.” The dreaded words I hoped I’d never hear had been spoken by my 28-year old. She and her friend were driving a few short miles from their condo to the beach when they slowed to make a right hand turn off the highway for beach access. Suddenly, they were struck from behind and were sent spinning as one of the rear tires flew off the car and the back windshield shattered into the back seat. The car came to rest in a busy parking lot; the car’s air bags did not inflate. The girls were surprisingly calm, assessing their injuries which appeared to be slight. They called 911 and waited for help. The vehicle that hit them was across the road on the other side of the median blocking busy holiday traffic and the young driver was holding a towel against his forehead, supposedly tamping bleeding. Wonderful bystanders rushed to the girls’ aid to ascertain whether they were injured or needed anything. The police and EMS arrived. It was determined everyone’s injuries were minimal and no transport to the hospital was needed. The Florida Highway Patrol came and after conducting its investigation cited the 17-year old who hit them with reckless endangerment. He’d been driving 55 miles per hour, according to the driver, and was texting. He was looking down at his phone when the girls slowed to make their turn off the highway. By the time he looked up, he was right on their bumper and swerved to the left trying to avoid the collision. Instead, he hit them, then went across a busy lane of traffic, across a median and into oncoming traffic where he came to a stop. My daughter’s friend’s car was totaled.
A short while after the wreck, the girls began to cry. They realized how miraculous it was that no one was hurt. No one was hurt in the two vehicles involved in the crash. No other cars hit them from behind. No cars hit the other driver as he sat blocking a lane of oncoming traffic. No cars or people were hit by the girls’ spinning car in the parking lot at the beach on a busy Memorial Day weekend. It’s unbelievable how much tragedy was averted. How many family’s lives were nearly changed forever by one person’s decision to send a text while driving? How important could that texted message have been? Young people think they’re invincible and that tragedy could never touch them. Please, please remind your children not to text while driving. And, for heaven’s sake, parents, set a good example and don’t dare text while at the wheel. Let’s hope none of us have to learn the consequences of such actions the hard way.