Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Anita's Close Call Story - That Little Voice

Anita of Springfield, Mo., asked to share her story. It sounds familiar to many of us who have struggled with the temptation to multi-task while driving. If you have a story about transportation that you would like to share, please contact us at socialmedia@modot.mo.gov.

It was a typical Tuesday; the work day is over and like a lot of families it’s time to hustle the kids to evening activities. I pick up my son around 5:30 pm and head to the high school. He wants to go to the game. I need to pick my daughter up at 6:00 pm from dance class so the timing is just right. After dropping him off at the game it’s onto dance. Taking Battlefield Road to Highway 65 seems to be the logical route so that’s the direction I choose. Lots of traffic, stop and go, it’s evening rush hour. Bummer, this is going to take awhile.

To pass the time I decide to make a call. I’ll just maneuver through traffic while chatting, something I do often, and the 10 minute drive to dance class won’t seem so daunting. I grab my phone. But as I’m turning onto the exit ramp, a little voice in my head suggests I probably should pay attention to what I’m doing. It’s not like I had anything earth shattering to discuss, so I toss the phone down onto the passenger seat.

I merge onto Highway 65, within seconds traffic is up to full speed. Bumper to bumper, vehicles switching lanes, you know the drill. I’m staying in the right lane as I’ll be exiting shortly onto James River Freeway. Like most people behind the wheel at this time my mind is reviewing the day’s events and calculating what’s left to do.

I glance ahead and notice the car in front of me is breaking, so I tap mine too but quickly let off in order to keep the pace. A fraction of a second passes, I glance again and realize the car isn’t breaking; it’s at a dead stop. Moving at nearly 65 mph, I slam on my breaks. The car in front of me juts out to the right shoulder just in time to avoid hitting the vehicle in front of it and to avoid being hit by me. My view instantly shifts to the rear view mirror, and in the next second I notice a pickup truck behind me and hear its screeching breaks. The truck swerves to the right shoulder to avoid impact and I manage to come to a jolting stop with only inches to spare. After breathing a quick sigh of relief I then see a huge truck barreling toward me... I close my eyes and brace for impact.

In these few seconds of shear panic, the all-important moments of my life, my family, my kids, all of it really did flash before my eyes. I couldn’t believe this is how it was all going to end. Was I ready?

No impact. My eyes open and see that the truck has stopped. I exhale, and begin to slowly move forward. About half a dozen car lengths ahead I see what’s caused this near miss. It’s a plastic chair partially blocking the right hand lane. I’m disturbed that this little plastic chair almost caused a terrible accident. I exit onto James River Freeway and say a few thank-you prayers.

Suddenly, it becomes clear to me the message this close call had truly intended. The plastic chair hadn’t almost caused the accident. It wasn’t about the chair at all.
If I had made the choice to make that call seconds earlier, I would have been distracted; I would not have been able to stop. If anyone involved would have been talking, texting or updating their social media status, they would have not been able to stop. This accident was avoided simply because I listened to the voice that whispered to me, "Pay attention."

Using our phones while driving is manageable, right? Accidents won’t happen to us, we’re good drivers, right? Wrong. Distracted driving can cause serious accidents, injuries, and death. It happens every day.

I encourage you to give merit to the little voice you hear and think twice the next time it nudges you, as mine did. Doing so could very possibly could save your life and the lives of others.