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Near Death by Texting
About four years ago, my wife and I were sitting at home during the weekend when her cell phone rang at a little past 11:00 pm. “What’s wrong, honey!?” my wife answered, her voice sounding concerned and I immediately knew it was our sixteen-year-old daughter. I could hear her crying and thought she’s having boy trouble again. “Sweetie, calm down! Where are you?!” Okay, that put an edge on it.
“Have you called an ambulance? Okay, stay where you are! We’ll be right there!” Now I felt sick and my wife jumped up from the couch, “Our daughter has wrecked her car.” I began to worry about how badly she was hurt as we grabbed wallets and keys and headed for our car. Fortunately, her accident site was less than two miles away and she had been okay enough to call us. She had been driving this used car for about nine months.
The phone call may have been bad but arriving on an accident scene and seeing your child’s vehicle lying on its side about 30 feet from the road is something else. Add to that the presence of an ambulance and your daughter and her girlfriend being put onto stretchers and your blood pressure kicks up a notch.
We both went to her and found out she and her friend were scratched and bruised but otherwise seemed okay. However, they were taking them to the local hospital to check for internal injuries. While she was being secured on the stretcher and then loaded into the ambulance, I walked over to her car which sat on the other side of railroad tracks that ran parallel to the road. Broken glass was everywhere from where multiple windows had been broken out (including the driver side window). Bits of plastic and CD’s littered the scene. I felt sick. Whatever happened here it had been violent.
After a brief stay at the hospital both our daughter and her friend were released to go home having sustained only minor cuts and bruises. We were so relieved and thankful at the obvious miracle that had occurred. What we found out later was chilling and to this day remains a bit of a mystery.
That night our daughter had been sleeping over at her best friend’s home when they received an invitation to come over to another girl’s house and spend the night. Excitedly, they had both grabbed their stuff and jumped into our daughter’s car, a VW Beetle, and headed over to the third girl’s home which was less than two miles away. All this was occurring on quiet streets in a small town.
While driving to the other girl's house, my daughter received and replied to multiple TEXT MESSAGES! She was rounding a gentle turn, probably going too fast and dipped a tire off the edge of the road. Being a somewhat inexperienced driver, she overcorrected in trying to get back on the road going too far to the other side and immediately jerked the wheel back, at this point probably leaving the road altogether.
When we arrived at the accident scene, her car was lying on the passenger side, facing opposite to the direction she had been traveling. According to our daughter, somehow the vehicle had rolled over at least once and the driver side window was broken out because she had not been wearing a seatbelt and had been ejected. She said she remembers flying through the air thinking that God was punishing her for not wearing a seatbelt. Her friend had been wearing a seat belt and remained in the car. Her post accident description included the detail that she had been knocked out and came to on her knees about twenty feet behind the car. The mystery is what type of gyrations did her car go through in order to end up where it did? The other mystery was how did our daughter end up where she did and not crushed by the automobile?
The next morning (a Saturday), I awoke from a fitful sleep, threw on some clothes and ran up the stairs. There she was—alive and still laying on the living room couch where she had chosen to sleep that night. I had to touch her arm to see that I was not imagining her being there. Given the nature of the accident, she should be dead. Our daughter broke some many of our rules that night, paid the price and was punished accordingly. Maybe in another five or six years we will let her have her keys back.
Okay it's not quite that bad – With the exception of backing into a concrete support in a parking garage, four years later our little girl has managed to avoid another accident. She assures us she refrains from texting and almost all cell phone calling while driving (take it for what it's worth). She attends college about two hours from where we live and as we whisper a prayer each time she has to make the journey, she manages to do so safely. By the way, getting one phone call like the one we received that night puts a slight edge on all other phone calls you receive–especially the ones that come in late at night. What's even worse is that we now also have two teenage sons that are driving. Gray hairs abound!
So what can you take from this? If you have a child that is an inexperienced driver and you suspect they are texting or talking on the phone while driving, let them read this. Have them look at the pictures of our daughter’s mangled car which was a total loss. Maybe it will scare them bad enough that they will refrain from using a cell phone while driving until they have a year or two of driving under their belt. Set some firm rules and stick to them with the goal of eliminating as many teenage distractions as possible: no passengers, no music, no late night driving (i.e., have a curfew), etc. Yeah, I know--near impossible to enforce all of these but the more you can eliminate the better. Also, if you are going to ask them to do things like refraining from talking and texting on a cell phone while driving and obeying the speed limit, it means you need to do so as well. Oh, and hug them every day.
One final note: Our daughter suffers from back pain caused by the injury that required physical therapy. While not chronic, it does flare up every now and then--a little reminder of the night she chose to drive her way.
I will conclude with the suggestion of a great article on parents and teen driving: http://www.usatoday.com/money/autos/2009-09-24-safer-driving-teens_N.htm