The moment before I nailed into the van that was stopped in the middle of the highway, my only thought was “I am going to be in so much trouble.” What makes the situation worse is that it was entirely my fault. I knew I should not have been texting and driving at the same time; I do not know why I just did not check my phone before I stepped into the car. This whole accident could have been avoided, but it was not, and I will always regret that mistake.
That night, I had worked a five-hour shift. When another female employee came in to relieve me, I darted out of the store as fast I could. Phone, purse, and keys in hand, I scuttled toward my car, eager to return home and take a warm, relaxing shower. After starting my car, I turned on my phone to look at all the missed alerts I had received while I was occupied at work . . .. Thirteen missed texts; I was missing out on important gossip! As I turned onto the highway, I began reading the messages. I looked down at the screen for several seconds then glanced back at the road just to ensure that I was not about to plunge into a ditch or even into a field. As I recall, I was looking down, analyzing a message, but as I glanced up, it was too late. Stopped completely, about a hundred yards ahead of me was a van. At that moment, I was too much in shock to respond in any way; I knew in a couple seconds I was going to collide into that vehicle. I remember my only thought being “I am going to be in so much trouble.” I knew my parents would be livid with me once they found out I had caused the accident because of my carelessness. They had always told me the severity of texting and driving, but I failed to listen to them.
I could feel my body becoming so tense, not being able to move my muscles, much less even blink. The crash happened so fast; as I plowed into the back bumper, my head hit the steering wheel, and my phone flew against the windshield.
When I finally acquired the courage to look up, I was staring at the back end of this van. As the elderly man stepped out of the driver’s side, I opened my door, my hands shaking uncontrollably. We agreed to pull into the nearest clearing to move ourselves, and our damaged vehicles, off the road. The man explained that this was no ordinary van, but a handicapped van that his wife used to commute to and from therapy; it was her only source of transportation since she had recently been placed in a wheelchair. A thousand thoughts went through my head, but I could not say a word. My mouth was frozen in place; I knew what I wanted to say, but I could not make a sound. Right then, I started to cry uncontrollably. The elderly man gave me a hug and told me to call my dad, then continued to comfort me until he showed up at the scene. Surprisingly, my dad was not as upset as I thought he would be. His main concern was my safety, as well as the passenger in the opposite car. Fortunately, we had the situation taken care of without calling the police.
The worst part of the accident, for me, was how I affected another person’s life without her even being there. I had dented in the back bumper so far, that the doors were jammed shut. The elderly man’s wife was not able to travel to or from any physical therapy or counseling for at least a week. Still to this day I think, “Why was it so important for me to check my phone?” I had been working a long shift, and I lived the next town over. The damage was expensive, and we paid it “out of pocket” so my insurance did not skyrocket. My parents did not take my phone or even ground me from my car because they knew that the guilt I felt was punishment enough. If the person texted me five hours ago, I am sure that she could have waited another five minutes. In all seriousness, I do not even have the slightest idea to this day what that text message had said as I was reading it.
I now know that what I do can have an effect on so many other people. I take full responsibility for the accident I caused, and there is not a day that goes by where I do not think about it when I pass the scene. If I could take it back, I would in a heartbeat. Putting oneself at risk is one problem, but putting another person’s life is selfish. I did not mean to harm anyone, yet by looking at my phone for a few seconds I harmed others. It does not matter that they were not harmed physically, but mentally and emotionally they had been. If I could do it over, I would have kept my phone off until I had reached home. There is no excuse for anyone to be looking down, or even talking on the phone, while driving. I promise; it can wait.
by Kailee Rule
I am a student at McKendree University double majoring in Accounting and Business Administration.