Put the phone down, watch the road!

September 14, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Brian Lockhart

You still see it happen – a lot. You pull up to a stop light and the person in the car beside you is typing madly away on their cell phone while glancing up occasionally to see if the light is still red.

Distracted driving has now surpassed impaired driving as the number one reason people die in road accidents.

Watching your cell phone at a red light is bad enough, but when you do it in a vehicle travelling at 100 km/h, you just covered 50 metres at high speed in the 1.5 seconds you took to look at your phone.

A lot can happen in those 50 metres.

Recently, I was on assignment travelling up to Alliston to cover a Peewee baseball tournament. It was routine stuff for me on a road I’ve driven thousands of times.

As I approached a sideroad, something caught my eye – a small white car travelling at high speed toward the main road.

In that split second I thought, “You’re going way to fast – there’s a stop sign!”

The car blasted past that stop sign without slowing down and T-boned a full-size SUV that was travelling in my direction. I lost sight of the collision at that point as I was now navigating through a debris field that included the hood of the white car that was bouncing across the pavement in my direction. It was a mess.

The impact of the collision was so violent that the SUV was lifted off the ground, rolled, tipped up on its front end, then came to rest beside a tree 30 yards from the collision.

Several other cars that witnessed the collision stopped and we all went over to help. None of us were expecting a good outcome but everyone remained calm and we directed our efforts to helping those involved.

The person in the small white car was obviously injured – and seriously. We pried the door open and another passerby stayed with her until the paramedics arrived.

The SUV was in bad shape and I was expecting to find the driver, whose side took the impact, either dead or in very rough condition. Surprisingly, both occupants of the big SUV got out and were sitting on the grass. Water bottles were scattered around the area, having been ejected from the truck. The impact had knocked the rings off the woman’s fingers and the shoes off their feet.

“We’re okay,” the driver said, when I knelt down to talk to them.

The man had an obvious but not serious injury to his foot. The woman had a minor cut on her leg.

I knew they weren’t ‘okay.’ It was a violent impact and sometimes injuries aren’t apparent at first.

I stayed with them until a paramedic arrived and took over.

Around 30 minutes after leaving the accident scene I saw the Ornge ambulance helicopter leaving Stevenson Memorial Hospital in Alliston. In the end, all three people were transported to a larger hospital in Toronto.

The next day I went back to the scene of the collision to figure out how this driver could have missed the stop sign.  The area is wide-open fields, the stop clearly marked. There is no doubt you are approaching a main road.

The night of the collision I viewed video that had been captured on my car’s dashcam. It clearly showed the white car hitting the SUV at high speed. It also showed that if I had been driving two miles per hour faster, or just a second or two farther down the road, it would have been me taking the first hit.

It was a sobering experience to see the video and the carnage that followed.

An OPP officer came to my home the next night to retrieve the accident footage.

As he watched the video I wondered out loud how the driver could have missed a visible stop sign.

The officer didn’t really say much; he probably isn’t supposed at this point. But I sensed from the conversation that the police think the driver was texting or using the cell phone in some way.

That would explain a lot. That 1.5-second look at the phone was long enough to allow the car to travel past the point of no return and right into passing traffic.

Cell phones are a great convenience, but if you’re driving don’t answer the phone, send a text, or check your GPS.

That few seconds could end up having you be the one to run the stop sign or miss the curve in the road.

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