It was the conclusion of a holiday weekend gone right. As someone who usually was not a fan of Thanksgiving, I found myself very grateful for the things I did have.
I spent Wednesday night drinking beer with friends, and the celebration on Thursday was met with jokes and catching up with family. Saturday was spent working about a 9-hour shift, and I got out early enough to meet my friends.
They wouldn’t hear from me until the next day, as that drive home in my 2008 Santé Fe would be my last in that car.
I was no more than five minutes into driving, but my mind was only thinking about a million other things, including what I’d have to eat and drink once I got to where I was going. It was within minutes that I collided at the intersection.
There is no way to really describe accidents accurately. I don’t remember the sound of a horn at all; I don’t remember my car spinning and almost hitting the nearest pole.
I just remember the sound of crashing metal against one another, and then silence. My shoulder hit the steering wheel, and I was frozen for only a moment, as I thought about one of my teammates whose mass card hung from my mirror.
Then, I jumped out of my car and ran across the street to see the car I hit. It was a green van with two passengers. They rolled down their window and I was trembling uncontrollably. They said they were okay and told me to be the one to call the cops.
I stood in front of my car as incoming traffic ran over the broken pieces left on the highway, a combination of two cars ruined. The sound drew crowds and it was like a movie I never thought I’d play a part in, as I stood in center of it all in shock.
I dialed 911 not even remembering it, or remembering how I got there. The color of blue and red lights were the only thing lighting up the night sky at 10:05 that evening. They asked if I was okay and I moved my shoulder to feel a slight pain, but I ignored it. “I’m fine, are they okay?”
Tow trucks came and they removed what was left and took my car away. My father pulled up and got out just hugging me. The car ride was silent.
We got home and I stayed awake just looking at my ceiling. My best friend called, who was out with the friends I probably would have met.
Screams and noise circulated in the background and the only thing clear was, “At least no one was hurt. That is what is important,” he said.
I fell asleep crying wearing my Carly sweatshirt. It was the ugly brown one I purchased the weekend I went to her funeral in Michigan, as I couldn’t seem to pack properly for the weather because it went from hot to freezing in a matter of minutes.
I hugged the bear her and the team made me and just looked at the bracelet with her name on it. “You saved me tonight,” was all I could whisper in quiet prayer.
How I wish I could have done the same for her. But, I knew like always, she had my back since day one, and nothing was changing that.
My first reaction wasn't, "Okay, you no longer have a car," but rather, everyone was okay. I wasn’t in a hospital bed; I wasn’t visiting someone else. My coach wouldn’t have to make that dreadful phone call twice in one year because no one deserves to do that even once.
I woke up in pain tossing and turning only to readjust my shoulder. But, I woke up the next day crying and I walked to my friend’s house and completely fell apart. “I’ve never seen you cry. I’m not good at this,” he said laughing, which made me laugh.
But, reflecting on it, it’s these moments that forever impact us. The things in life that cause the greatest trauma end up shaping you if you find the lesson it is trying to teach you.
I consider myself so lucky, and I think luck comes in the form of an angel named Carly, as I truly believe in guardian angels.
What I learned more in and after that moment is the responsibility that comes with owning a car. It isn’t something you can mess around with; it is something to which you need to give your complete attention.
As someone who is in constant motion, it taught me to slow down a little. It taught me to be aware of my surroundings. Although during my accident, I wasn't on my phone, I admit that in the past I was guilty of texting and driving on occasion.
But, then, I realized how one single moment can change your life.
No text message, no call, no thought is worth distracting you enough to lose your life or live with having killed someone else. The possibility of that happening became more real to me than ever before on that fatal Saturday night.
If you are someone who is naïve the way I was, don’t be. Learn from me and learn from Carly. I don’t want someone learning by having to experience an accident.
Your life is too valuable to even risk it. When you are on the road, focus on the road only because every time you get into that car, there is a chance you may not make it to your destination.
Your friends and your family are going to be wondering why they haven’t heard from you, so don’t do that to them, and don’t do that to yourself.
A recent study shows texting while driving makes a driver 23 times more likely to crash, and 15- to 19-year-olds are the largest proportion of distracted drivers.
Eleven teens die every day from texting while driving, and 60 percent of teens admit to being distracted while driving.
In 2012, 3,328 people were killed because of a distracted driving accident, while 421,000 were injured in accidents. One in four teens respond to texts they receive while driving, and 14 percent of people admit to reading emails while driving.
It’s time these statistics stop rising.
I don’t know if it is just in my community, but there have been way too many accidents lately. No one deserves to be just another statistic. No parent deserves to lose a child, and no child deserves to lose a parent.
I’m tired of losing my friends and acquaintances to car accidents. I’m tired of reading the stories, and I’m tired of people being naïve to it the way I was.
It was a louder wake-up call than anything else. It is completely and totally within our control to reduce accidents, and it is time we take control.
To anyone reading this, make a promise with me to not let anything distract you while driving. If you ever consider answering a text or call, or you admit to driving carelessly the way I did, take a moment and ask yourself, “Is this more important than my life?”
Cars are not toys; life is not something with which you can gamble, and I sure as hell know there are a lot of people in your life who do not want to go to your funeral.