Raise your hand if you’re guilty

By Jim Krumel - Guest Columnist

These things don’t happen to you or me. They happen to the other guy.

Or, should we say, be it for the grace of God they don’t happen to us or to anyone else.

But they do happen.

Any time you get into an automobile, lives can change with a silly mistake, poor decision or just bad luck.

Our region saw it occur three horrible times last week in a span of 72 hours.

First it happened at dusk on a Sunday. A husband and wife were traveling on SR 81 in western Van Wert County when he lost control of his vehicle and crashed, killing his 54-year-old spouse. She was a mother of three, a grandmother, and a person who worked two jobs, one of them for more than 35 years. Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash, according to a sheriff’s report, which also said the two were not believed to be wearing seat belts.

Then came Wednesday, when tragedy struck twice.

Shortly before midnight, a man driving the wrong way on Interstate 75 slammed his pickup truck head-on into a Ford Explorer carrying five people. One of the passengers in the Explorer, a 15-year-old boy, was killed. The pickup driver drove down the wrong ramp in Beaverdam and is believed to have been intoxicated.

Earlier that day at around 1 p.m., a vehicle being driven by a 70-year-old Lima woman ran a red light and slammed into a parked Pepsi truck making a delivery at the Pony Keg carryout on Spencerville Road in Lima. The woman’s 67-year-old sister and 45-year-old niece — a mother and daughter from St. Marys — were both killed. It is suspected the 70-year-old woman suffered some type of medical condition.

Tragic accidents like these grab our attention and weigh heavy on our hearts. But here’s the problem: After we learn about such tragedies, we’re still likely to get behind the wheel of a two-ton machine and zoom to our destination while reading a text, eating a burger, drinking a coffee or dialing in our favorite music. Raise your hand if you’ve been guilty of that. My guess is a lot of hands just went up, including mine. We know it is wrong, but we do it any way.

This disconnect between what drivers do and what they believe has big consequences:

• Talking on a cell phone while driving increases crash risk by up to four times, a AAA Auto Club Foundation report shows.

• Texting or emailing while driving increases crash risk by up to eight times.

And what about all these new touch-screen features in today’s vehicles?

Drivers who use in-vehicle technologies can be distracted for more than 40 seconds when completing tasks like programming navigation or sending a text message, according to the AAA Foundation research.

They have a term for all of this: “distracted driving.”

It’s not the stuff in which Page 1 headlines are made, yet motorists tell AAA they are more concerned about distracted driving than other risky behaviors, including aggressive driving, drivers using drugs and drunk driving.

What are we going to do about it?

Like so many other things, the answer begins at home.

Jim Krumel is the editor of The Lima News, a division of Aim Media Midwest.


By Jim Krumel

Guest Columnist