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Driver Education 2020 – Sudden Changes

Name: Susanna Larsen
From: Adair Village, Oregon
Votes: 68

Sudden Changes

I remember
feeling the heat on my face and seeing my arm lay at an unnatural
angle. The door not opening and the panicking. I remember watching
the smoke tendrils curl in the air and the burning feeling on my face
from the airbag. While the EMT’s were assessing my injuries, I kept
repeating the same lines. “It’s Wednesday. This isn’t supposed
to happen. I’m supposed to see my horse on Wednesdays.” In the
haze of all the pain, all I could think about was how wrong the
situation was.

I’m a
planner. I plan my day, my week, my future. I ride my horse on
Wednesdays and Fridays and meet with my instructor on Mondays. I
focus my time and energy on keeping my grades high, and preparing for
equestrian competitions, which will help me join an equestrian team
in college. Completely shattering my arm and my dreams in a car crash
was not part of the plan.

My dominant arm
was unusable for months. Taking time to recover from surgery caused
me to fall behind in school. Doctors told me it would be a long time
until I could ride my horse again. This caused huge setbacks in my
training and abilities. I had panic attacks when in a car, much less
driving myself places like I used to. I struggled with losing my
independence. I lost what I defined myself by.

I had ample
time to sit and think. My life almost ended on that day. What would I
do differently now that I felt like I had a second chance? I started
with being open and honest about my crash, answering questions my
peers had about my experience. Yes, this crash affected all aspects
of my life. No, you do not have to be actively driving recklessly to
become involved in a crash. Yes, I am now timid around cars, but that
is something I’m working to overcome. It shocked me how this
accident revealed new perspectives. I had to work with a counselor
overcoming my PTSD which later led to insightful conversations with
my friends regarding the dangers in our daily lives and our
appreciation for each other. I got to remind others how juvenile and
pointless reckless driving was. Feeling like I made a lasting impact
on the safety of my friends and classmates brought new purpose to a
difficult period of my life.

I use my experience
to talk about my car crash. This may seem simple to many, but
starting conversations is always the first step to implementing
changes and affecting lives. My scar and my presence reminds others
of the serious consequences of decisions while driving. Words lead to
attention and reform. Talking about our crashes not only educates
others, but also erases any stigma around seeming vulnerable and
seeking counseling after accidents. I believe the bravest thing we
can do is start talking about the real-life implications of driving
and as a community, we all benefit from discussions whether with
medical professionals or civilians with differing opinions.