Kari Dequine Harden: Don’t look at your phone while driving | SteamboatToday.com

Kari Dequine Harden: Don’t look at your phone while driving

Kari Dequine Harden

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — We all do it. The phone makes a noise, and we look. Compulsion. We have to look.

I do it. 

I don’t do it flying around a blind corner in the wrong lane.

But I’ve read texts while driving. 

Last week, my dad and his girlfriend headed out on a camping trip to the desert. They were going to meet family in Moab, Utah, and play around on the dirt bikes.

First, they were going to Grand Junction, where his girlfriend’s daughter had just given birth to a baby girl.

They barely went 5 miles before their vacation ended in a nightmare in the form of a head-on collision.

From the other driver, I’d like to know: What was it that was so important you had to look at your phone while going fast around a blind corner?

What was so crucial that could not wait a few minutes, until you were at your destination, or simply in a safe place to check?

Did that text have to be read right at that moment when your phone went bing?

My dad survived. He is in pain and suffered injuries to his wrist, knee and shoulder (the good one). He just recovered from hip and shoulder surgery before this. Now, he may face multiple more surgeries.

His girlfriend broke her neck. She was flown to Denver the night of the accident. She will be in an chest and neck brace for at least six weeks. She may require surgery.

She can’t hold her new granddaughter.  

She will be unable to ride horses for a long time, which is both her work and her passion.

My dad is starting the hay season. The grass has to be irrigated, mowed, raked and bailed. He will work and will be in pain.

But they are lucky. They are alive. Had they been in a smaller car, they likely would be dead.

Yes, I have anger. I hate to see people I love in pain.

But I forgive you, other driver. I know you did not intend to hurt anyone. I know you are not loving life right now, either.

But you still made a grave mistake. And an avoidable one.

It’s a mistake most of us make on a daily basis, though to a less dangerous extent.

It’s a mistake I hope our justice system will take seriously enough to ensure the other driver pays a fair price and stays off the road for a long time, especially considering his license was priorly revoked.

The moral of the story is: Make a change. 

Don’t be like the like the other driver.

My change is that I will get in the habit of turning off my phone every time I get in the car. Distracted driving also includes cognitive distraction — taking your mind off driving.

The statistics are eye-opening.

One out of every four vehicle crashes is caused by texting and driving.

One survey shows 88% of drivers use their smartphones while driving.

Every single day in the U.S., about nine people are killed, and more than 1,000 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.

Using a cellphone while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.

Studies show texting and driving to be more dangerous than drinking and driving.

Among teens, 21% of drivers involved in fatal crashes were distracted by their cellphones.

When you send or read a text message, you take your eyes off the road for about five seconds, which, at 55 miles per hour, is long enough to travel the distance of a football field.

I have as busy a life as anyone else.

But if I don’t look at my phone for 30 minutes, or for an hour, the world won’t end, and it won’t leave me behind. I’m going to make a change.

And it might just save a life.

To reach Kari Dequine Harden, call 970-871-4205, email kharden@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @kariharden.

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