Teen’s fu­neral prompts a driver’s pledge

The Covington News - - SPORTS -

I at­tended a fu­neral Mon­day for a young man who would have turned 19 yes­ter­day.

He died rid­ing his mo­tor­cy­cle.

As the clock ap­proached the 3 p.m. fu­neral, a long line of 17- to-19-year-olds filed into the sanc­tu­ary, stand­ing along the back wall of the filled-to-ca­pac­ity room.

When the floor was opened for eu­lo­gies, many of th­ese teens made their way to the front.

One young man fid­dled with his phone to find his eu­logy notes, in­stead of fum­bling for pa­per like some other adults. There were bracelets halfway up a cou­ple of arms, well-worn sneak­ers paired with ties and but­ton-ups, and a few heads dyed pur­ple.

I couldn’t help but think what Mr. Charles Wil­born, whose own fu­neral was yes­ter­day, would have told th­ese stu­dents if they’d come through one of our Youth Lead­er­ship In­sti­tute “dress for suc­cess” classes he taught.

In other words, th­ese could have been teenagers from any com­mu­nity, in­clud­ing ours.

Watch­ing the tears pour down the faces of this vic­tim’s younger broth­ers didn’t make it any eas­ier..

You might think this col­umn is about to be on the dangers of mo­tor­cy­cles, but it’s not. It’s also not on teen driv­ing. This was a teenager who’d just told his dad he loved him and headed off to work.

There has been no re­port that he was do­ing any­thing other than driv­ing his mo­tor­cy­cle law­fully and care­fully to work, and ap­par­ently wear­ing the ap­pro­pri­ate gear, as he al­ways did, even when rid­ing his dirt bike.

In­stead, this is a wakeup call to you and me: It’s not just new driv­ers who make care­less mis­takes. The driver who pulled into the path of the mo­tor­cy­cle is 34 years old. He had pre­sum­ably been driv­ing for many years. While he didn’t ma­li­ciously set out to kill a young man, he was ar­rested and charged with mis­de­meanor ve­hic­u­lar homi­cide and will have to live with this ev­ery day.

Ob­vi­ously, I have no idea what went on in the pick- up truck, but I think ev­ery one of us can ad­mit to a lot of dis­trac­tions in our own cars, dis­trac­tions that could so eas­ily lead to the same kind of ac­ci­dent one day.

With the move to more hands-free and voice-ac­ti­vated op­tions in our ve­hi­cles, one would think we’re less distracted th­ese days. But the op­po­site seemed to prove true in a study this year by the Univer­sity of Utah and the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety.

The study com­pared the cog­ni­tive dis­trac­tion lev­els of var­i­ous tasks while driv­ing.

We all know that tak­ing our eyes off the road to read a text or map, or tak­ing our hands off the steer­ing wheel can be danger­ous, but there seems to be a be­lief that just talk­ing can’t hurt any­thing.

In the study, men­tal dis­trac­tions were mea­sured in terms of brak­ing time, fol- low­ing dis­tances and glances at haz­ards, all things that could have po­ten­tially caused, or pre­vented, the ac­ci­dent last week­end.

On a scale of 1 (nor­mal driv­ing tasks only) to 5 (com­plet­ing math tasks or mem­o­riz­ing words while driv­ing), the study found that lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio or a book on tape barely in­creased the dangers of driv­ing, with rank­ings of 1.21 and 1.75, re­spec­tively.

Climb­ing the scale, talk­ing to a pas­sen­ger came in at 2.33, just be­tween talk­ing on a hands-free cell phone (2.27) and talk­ing on a hand-held cell phone (2.54). That’s right: Talk­ing to a pas­sen­ger and on a hands-free de­vice ranked as al­most iden­ti­cal dis­trac­tions. Speech-to-text sys­tems ranked the high­est in the study, at 3.06.

Com­bine ra­dios with phones, in-car sys­tems, crying ba­bies and eat­ing fast food, and who knows where we fall on that scale?

I hope I never have to at­tend an­other fu­neral like this one, yet I know I can’t save the whole world.

What I can do, though, is make my car a lit­tle safer place by sav­ing the multitasking for the of­fice or while cook­ing. I truly be­lieve things hap­pen for greater causes, so I in­vite you to join me in memo­ri­al­iz­ing Cam with a pledge.

Won’t you join me in putting away the phone com­pletely while driv­ing, sav­ing con­ver­sa­tions for later, and re­duc­ing other driv­ing dis­trac­tions?

Terri Kim­ble Fuller­ton is the New­ton County 4-H Agent through UGA Co­op­er­a­tive Ex­ten­sion. She can be reached at tkim­ble@ uga.edu.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.