Nearly two years ago, my 19-year-old daughter, Casey, was walking to her summer job on the Ocean City boardwalk. It was a beautiful, sunny day, and she was crossing the street in a crosswalk controlled by four-way stop signs and was more than halfway through the intersection when she was fatally hit by a van. The driver was distracted; he said he did not see her. He had taken his eyes off the road to reach for an iced tea on the passenger side of his van.
For most of us, driving is potentially the most dangerous thing we do on a daily basis. All of us have been distracted while driving. I drove distracted before Casey’s death—eating, dialing my cell phone or reaching for things as I was driving. We feel so comfortable while in our cars that we ignore or minimize the risk of driving distracted for even a few seconds. The belief that tragedies only happen to other people and other families is based on our experience of being lucky while driving distracted. We’ve never caused an accident before. I believe that if drivers allowed themselves to imagine that someone they loved could be taken from them by a distracted driver, or that they could, through their distracted driving, kill someone’s child, spouse, parent or friend they would drive differently.
After seeing a number of public service videos about driving and texting, I wanted to convey that distracted driving is so much more than just texting. I enlisted the help of Casey’s friends and my wife, Dianne, to do so. We wanted to make a difference. The most gut-wrenching and painful moment in the video is when Dianne pleads for drivers to change the way they drive after painfully recounting Casey’s last words. Casey’s friends describe how they have changed the way they drive as a result of Casey’s death. Since the video was launched by the U.S. Department of Transportation last month it has been viewed by thousands and thousands of people, many middle school and high school classes and driver’s education classes.
We do have a choice every time we get behind the wheel: We can drive distracted and hope that our luck continues to hold, or we can stop multitasking and focus on driving only. It is really very simple. If you’d like to help raise awareness about distracted driving, please visit our website.