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Opinion: Distracted

Trevor Stevens: My cherished, rust-bucket truck wasn't the only thing I left at the crash site

Published: Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 17, 2013 17:01

It happens like that. Take your eyes off the road for one too many seconds and before you know it, you might be climbing out of the metal mess that used to be the best used Ford Ranger a 16 year old could have asked for.

I loved that truck. We called it Gumby. But there it was, burning hotter and brighter than that Nov. 11 sunrise when I drove off the road and flipped over a cement culvert, because, at that moment, fidgeting with my 15-year-old, dysfunctional radio seemed more important than keeping my eyes on the road.

After I climbed out of the truck as it began to catch fire, and was dragged away to safety by a few Good Samaritans, I remember lifting my head, despite the sharp pain in my spine, to look back at the wreckage. With a shattered ankle, fractured spine, fractured clavicle and a right femur in two pieces, I looked up hoping my favorite truck would make it out of the wreckage too.

Gumby wasn't the only thing I left behind on that farm-to-market highway.

You see, I used to figure the consequences that obviously governed the actions of others were rules that didn't apply to me. Apparently, it took about five broken bones to show me they did.

I know we often hear that we should drive carefully. But with the continuous integration of eye-grabbing technologies at our finger tips and the prevalence of distracted driving accidents, some leading to death, drivers need to think twice about doing two things at once if one of those things includes driving. Or, the consequences will likely be unexpected, painful and often permanent.

What is most perplexing is that these accidents, including mine, don't have to happen. Distracted driving causes too many avoidable accidents. Let's look at some of the numbers.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, texting takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving an entire football field blindfolded. And in 2010, 18 percent of injury crashes were reported as distraction-affected crashes.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation, nearly one in four crashes in Texas involve a distracted driver. One in four.

If you end up your own victim of distracted driving and manage to crawl away from the wreckage, let me tell you, the road to recovery is usually a long one. Having inexperienced X-ray technicians throw my two-piece leg around like a football or being unable to bathe myself wasn’t even the worst of it.

It’s been more than two months since the accident and there’s still no sign of when I’ll be able to walk unassisted. Some of the worst news I've received down the long road to recovery – maybe even worse than hearing Gumby was burned beyond recognition – was that there was no definite timetable for when I'd be walking again. For someone who can't sit in one place for more than five minutes without getting anxious, this was less than fabulous news.

I told you Gumby wasn't the only thing I left behind at the crash site. I also left behind a misunderstanding.

I left behind a misunderstanding that I believed to be true, though I might not have outright admitted it. I thought I could do whatever I wanted and get away with it. A few hundred pounds of half-buried cement and gravity reminded me otherwise.

Along with my, now very much missed, rusted 1997 Ford Ranger, I left behind a piece of arrogance, ridding myself of the false notion that my fire-shoot-aim mentality would get me far without too many scars, as well as a lack of foresight that my reckless actions would indeed disrupt the lives of countless others. Apart from the people directly involved with my accident, the doctors who put me back together and friends and family, I forced the paper, this paper, to function without its editor-in-chief. Many apologies and thanks went out to the people who worked so hard to do the tasks and fill the roles I no longer could.

All this to say, do enjoy the vehicle with which you have been blessed, especially if it’s anything like the beautiful beater that Gumby was. But don't think that your decisions to drive distracted won't catch up with you, or that you're the only one out on that road.

Trevor Stevens is a senior English major.

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