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Driver Education Round 2 – Three Seconds

Name: Avery Barwegen
From: Lethbridge, AB
Votes: 0

Three Seconds

Three Seconds

Three seconds. I counted the time during one of my flashbacks. I have them often. It only took three seconds. I was driving my brother, Drew, to a Cadet meeting because my mom was too busy to take him. Frustrated because I wanted to go out with my friends instead of being a chauffeur, I let my feelings cloud my judgement. My dad would tell me, “driving is not the time to jam to music, lives are in your hands,” but I ignored the sound advice.

Drew tried to talk to me and apologize for taking me away from my friends. I was annoyed, so I turned the country music playing on the radio up to drown out his voice. He continued to talk over the music, so I took my eyes off the road for three seconds to flash him my annoyed face. To my bewilderment, Drew’s face glued to the road, and his arms were pointed ahead. He was shouting something: “watch out!”

Why do we say ‘watch out?’ It is a vague warning. Shout something else, something more specific. What if we shouted, “Hey! You’re about to die!” That would grab my attention. Force my muscles to react swiftly. Sadly, my actions were not swift that night. Five deer had run across the road in front of the car before me and the driver had stopped abruptly to let them pass. It was only three seconds. How had so much happened in three seconds? I rammed my foot into the brake and yelled, “hold on!” I knew I would hit the other car. I could see it before it happened. The inevitable would happen. My car would be drawn to meet the other, like magnets. I was useless against their attraction.

My brother and I jerked forward when the cars collided. A deafening crunch resulted. A siren went off. The sound was coming from either my car or an ambulance. A ringing tormented my ears. I took too many breaths. Twenty, maybe thirty in a few seconds. I gripped the wheel too tight. My worldview changed in three seconds.

Everyone was relatively unharmed, except for a few bruises and whiplash. I was still hyperventilating and sobbing when the other driver came over to talk to us. Even though I was the older sister, the responsible one, and the driver, Drew talked to the other driver and the police. He hugged me when I felt like falling to the ground. He made me tea when we got home. He handled the aftermath of my bad judgement, annoyance, and stupidity. I almost lost him.

Years after the accident, I refuse to listen to the radio when driving. The guilt still taints my dreams and prompts flashbacks after every big road trip. I still flinch at deer who cross streets. When I drive alone, I imagine that Drew is in the front seat. The image forces me to be aware and cautious when driving. To be grateful that my lapse in judgement was only three seconds long.

To make the roads a safer place, every driver needs to realize that a disaster can occur in an instant and every distraction increases the probability of that instant. My young friends who have not experienced car accidents say, “I couldn’t crash my car. I’m a good driver. I only text at red lights. I don’t need both hands on the steering wheel. My music helps me focus on driving.” No, no, no, no, no. Driving is not a game or a simple chore. Drivers hold more than one life in their hands.

Unfortunately, experiencing car accidents and knowing victims of distracted driving are some of the most effective ways to help all drivers understand their responsibility. I propose a film project that records distracted drivers and victims telling their stories. Participants could remain anonymous to protect their privacy, but the film could be widely distributed. The project could be called, “Distracted Drivers Anonymous.”

I believe that the film could be both educational and therapeutic. For instance, writing about my accident and my guilt forced me to find peace. Likewise, sharing stories could be cathartic for districted drivers and victims. To educate other drivers, schools could integrate the film into driver’s education. Victims and distracted drivers can teach students to protect each other. Young people can take the keys away from drunk friends. Friends can turn the music down in the car. Friends can take each other’s phones away before the driver takes the wheel. These small steps can make the biggest difference. The difference between three seconds and a lifetime.