“Oh my!” That’s what I said shortly after opening this morning’s paper. I recognized the face in the mugshot and knew the name underneath. The headline says, “Police: Texting Key In Fatality: Charge woman with homicide by vehicle after collision with cyclist.”
The 60-year-old woman was a beloved teacher of more than one of our children and anything but criminal-like. To make the story even more distressing to us is the fact that the arresting officer in this case that took the life of a 70-year-old bicyclist was a friend and teammate to one of my kids.
When texting while driving first became a reality, I mentioned it during a youth culture seminar I was leading in Western Pennsylvania. After the seminar was over, the organizer told me that a woman in attendance had recently lost her teenage daughter to the practice. The teen had taken her eyes off the road and hit a tree. Ironically, the accident happened on the very day that our state legislature had passed a new law outlawing the practice. My host also informed me that this mother was quickly becoming an activist in an effort to prevent the same for other families and communities.
Since that day, I’ve been repeating this warning: “I fear that there’s a day coming when not a family, youth group, school, church, or community won’t be shocked when lives are changed in a moment by a bad decision made in a moment.”
Since we now live in a smartphone-saturated-world where texting is the preferred mode of communication among kids and a growing number of adults, we must preach this warning to ourselves and our kids. I know all-too-well the temptation. I can only imagine how magnetic the pull is for kids.
Today, I will spend about four hours in the car. I will be driving in my neighborhood, through intersections, in our town, and on an interstate. I guarantee that there will be multiple times when I glance at a driver and see attention focused on a glowing screen. When I’m out on my bicycle I choose to ride on farm roads. Sure, one of the pulls is the beauty. But there’s also reduced traffic. And when a car is moving in my direction, I don’t just look at the car. . . I make every effort to lock eyes with the driver. Are you looking at the road? Or paying attention to your phone?
Sadness and disbelief today will yield redemptive outcomes if we remind ourselves and the kids we know and love about the dangers of texting while driving. To help you do that, take some time to download and read our Texting While Driving FactSheet from our Digital Kids Initiative. If you’re a youth worker, pass it on to your kids.