I bet a lot of you are “It-won’t-happen-to-me” people.
You are part of that segment of society that will say, “Isn’t that a shame” after hearing about a horrific accident that you feel could have been avoided had someone used common sense.
You shake your head and reaffirmed with yourself that “It won’t happen to me.”
I have been a member of that choir for years. Besides having full faith in the concept, I took preparations I believed would ward off bad things from happening to me. For the most part, I did pretty well.
A couple days ago, however, I almost became a sad statistic and part of a tragedy that, had I survived, I would have never forgiven myself. And, yes, it would have been something “that did happen to me.”
I was driving south in the center lane of I-110, barreling along at 65 mph, toward the downtown area. About two miles earlier I had received a text from my office.
Just as I’ve done many times before, I positioned my smartphone so that I could use one hand to return the text. This is where I say I knew what I was doing was illegal, dangerous and really stupid.
Like you, I have seen the statistics about the deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving. I’ve seen photos of distraught parents, family and friends who were burying a victim of death-by-texting and the devastated faces of people accused of killing someone because they were distracted and lost control of their vehicles.
Still, I returned the text because that’s what I always do and, after all, I was shielded by that impregnable armor of “It won’t happen to me.”
Just as I was completing my text answer, something felt very wrong. When I focused on the road again, the driver’s side of my car had drifted into the left lane. I was terrified, but quickly straightened the car.
Luckily there was no vehicle in the left lane, at least not close enough to have presented a problem. To say I was scared would be understating how I felt. About a month ago, a similar incident happened. You would think I would have learned my lesson.
As I returned to my lane on I-110, I looked over to my passenger side. There, next to me were two women in a compact car with a child in the back seat.
The driver and I looked at each other, both probably thinking the same thing. Had I drifted right instead of left, I could have caused serious injuries — or worse — to her and her passengers.
How could I be so stupid?
I don’t need more warnings. I don’t need more close calls because I have knocked on fate’s door too many times recently.
Not to sound preachy and self-righteous, I have now sworn off texting while driving. Please join me.
I have not mentioned driving while talking on the phone. That’s a step that, honestly, will be difficult for me to break. Cell phone chat is the crack cocaine or meth of modern communications. But, I will work on it.
But, I will say this. As far as being the cause of an accident because I’m texting while driving, I can truly say “It will not happen to me.”
Ed Pratt is a former Advocate editor. He is assistant to the chancellor for media relations at Southern University. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.