110 Years, No Reason to Celebrate

By: Jay Anderson

September 13, 2009 marked the 110th anniversary of the demise of Mr. Henry H. Bliss. Mr. Bliss had just stepped of the trolley and turned to assist a female passenger when he was struck by the driver of a horseless carriage. Transported to a local hospital he died from crushing injuries to the head and upper body making him the first person killed by a motor vehicle in the western hemisphere.

Since that autumn day over 25 million people worldwide have lost their lives in motor vehicle collisions, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In the United States 110 people a day die on our roads and highways, that’s one death every 13 minutes. Sadly, crashes remain the leading case of death and long term disability including brain and spinal cord injuries for ages 1 – 44.

As a society, driving is the only thing we do that makes us all the same. Motor vehicles are the true equalizer. Remember driving is a privilege not a right, when you’re behind the wheel you are responsible for a 4000 lb. potential weapon, capable of producing death and serious injuries when operated in a reckless manner.

There isn’t a day that goes by that we don’t hear a tragic report of another crash somewhere in the U.S. that often involves multiple fatalities and/or major injuries, along with the stories of families left mourning the loss of a loved one. Simply because someone failed to use due care and act responsibly while driving.

We tend to dwell on the deaths, but often overlook the survivors of a life altering collision. Crashes don’t discriminate! Everyone is at risk, from a newborn properly restrained in a car seat, to a bicyclist or pedestrian in the crosswalk, even a family on their way to dinner.

July, 2007. Lynn Grant and her daughters Shannon and Hannah were on the way to a birthday party when they were struck by a distracted driver, who ran a red light driving 55 mph. Hannah 6 years old took the brunt of the crash and suffered a traumatic brain injury, and is now cared for by her family, 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Hannah wears a diaper, can’t feed herself, talk, or walk. The driver responsible sentenced Hannah to life in a wheelchair. January, 2008. Ten vehicles are stopped at a red light on Hwy 27. A tractor trailer driver fails to see the red signal and plows into the vehicles, killing two and critically injuring six. Heather Hurd, 26 years old, and her fiancé Patrick, were on the way to the wedding planner. Heather was killed instantly and Patrick critically injured. The professional truck driver was texting his driver log to his company at the time of the crash. Mr. and Mrs. Hurd who were in Florida to help plan a wedding, now faced the daunting task of planning their daughter’s funeral.

Think about the impact of these two crashes, how quickly life’s direction changed and how many lives were affected. Innocent people who have paid the ultimate price for someone else’s failure to drive safely.

Ever since the introduction of the automobile, distractions have always been a major factor in the safe operation of a vehicle. Distracted driving puts other drivers, motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians in the bull’s-eye. Given the number of distractions in these days of electronic technology, along with eating, grooming and dealing with small children, society needs to accept the fact that distracted driving has become a: “PUBLIC HEALTH THREAT.”

There are two questions we should all ask ourselves before we decide to drive distracted.

  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it worth the risk?

Don’t let distracted driving become your nightmare. Stay Alert, Stay Focused, Stay Alive …. Just Drive!

To learn more visit us on the web: www’sajd.org.

Traffic safety professional Jay Anderson is the Executive Director of the Stay Alive …. Just Drive! crash prevention, education, and awareness program.