I have not described the car accident that took his life in detail in these notes. Today I am ready. Today I want to tell you all about how you can honor Chris by helping to avoid the type of accident that caused two people to lose their lives on December 29, 2009.
On that day, Chris and I were driving from Corpus Christi to Dallas to be with his sister - who was in labor with her first baby. We were having a great time in the car. We were so happy about being able to be in Dallas for little Sophie's birth. Chris had just won his fantasy football league championship. Colleen was safe at home in Corpus with my parents. Our weekend could not have been any better. We stopped for food in Seguin, and were continuing our trip on Highway 123 between Seguin and San Marcos. I remember being in the car with Chris, talking about Colleen and our great weekend...laughing and joking like we always did. The next thing I remember is hearing voices, and thinking to myself - "They are talking to me. I need to wake up".
I don't remember anything about the accident, but the the officer who investigated our case was incredibly thorough. Here is what he found:
On that day, an 18 year old girl drove from Seguin to San Marcos to purchase a car - a 1990 Jeep Cherokee. She was driving home, following a car with a few of her family members. As she drove, she was using her iPhone.
On Highway 123, she got distracted by her phone, and didn't anticipate a curve in the roadway. She was in the right hand lane, and started to veer towards a guardrail on her right. When she looked up from her iPhone, she overcorrected, and jerked her wheel to the left. She crossed three lanes of traffic on the undivided highway at over 70 miles an hour and slammed directly into our car. There were no skid marks - she was too distracted to try to stop or avoid our car.
The officers found an active text message on her iPhone after the accident. The police report officially states that she was "using her cell phone". She was not wearing a seatbelt, and was ejected from the car. The ejection ripped off most of her clothes. She was not drunk - but she was under the influence. She was under the influence of the untrue belief that it is possible to drive and use a cell phone at the same time.
We all think that we can. We all think that we are good enough drivers to be able to text, read and write email, surf the internet, and make calls while we are driving. Chris did. I did. The 18 year old girl who hit us that day did. And I would bet that most of you reading do. The truth is: we can't. No one can. It doesn't matter if you are 16 or 45, using a cell phone while you are driving is too distracting to risk.
I know you are thinking - "There is no way I can give it up. I am a good enough driver. I have years of experience. It will never happen to me." I am here to tell you - it can.
Chris was not on his phone during the accident. He was not distracted, and his focus allowed him to see the oncoming car, and maneuver our car quickly to the right before the impact. That maneuver, the last thing that he did, saved my life.
Today, on his birthday, I ask you to honor Chris' memory by pledging to never drive distracted again. Honor his memory by never riding in a car with someone who is driving distracted again. Every time someone texts you, or calls while you are driving, think to yourself, "Is sending this text worth risking my life? Is taking this call worth risking the life of another driver?" No call, no text, no email, was worth losing two lives on that day.
My heart aches for the family of the girl who also died that day. She didn't think that she was doing anything wrong. She never had a chance to live her life. I mourn for her, just as I do for Chris.
I ask you today to pledge in memory of Chris to never let your phone distract you while you are driving again. For your own sake, and for the other drivers around you - do not take the chance that your actions could take another life or your own.
Chris was a wonderful husband, amazing father, loving son and brother, and fiercely loyal friend. There is not a minute in a day that I don't think about him. I miss him desperately. But, Colleen and I are living our life. We laugh and smile and enjoy the blessed moments that we have together every day. We thank God for the time we had with Chris, and trust in God that he has not left us, and will never leave us alone.
Here are some links for more information on the dangers of distracted driving, and what you can do to help:
- Oprah's "No Phone Zone" - http://www.oprah.com/questionaire/ipledge.html?id=4
- Official US Government site for distracted driving - http://www.distraction.gov
- FocusDriven: Advocacy group for victims of crashes caused by distracted driving (similar to MADD) - http://www.focusdriven.org/index.aspx