I’m a huge supporter of writing, regardless of the type, author or genre. Just yesterday I told my mother-in-law that I wish that everyone was writing a book. So many good stories and talented writers go undiscovered when people fail to pick up the pen.
But there’s also a time to stop writing and drive the damn car.
Two years ago, Brandi Terry was a 17-year-old high school junior. She was driving one day to visit her grandfather in northern Utah.
"I woke up to a bright light — I could barely open my eyes — and paramedics. This man was saying 'Brandi, Brandi,' and I just started crying. I didn't know what had happened," she says.
Terry had run a red light. Police checked her phone and discovered she had sent a text within seconds of the accident. Terry shattered her right ankle and broke her upper right arm in half. She couldn't walk for six months and had an agonizing recovery. She got better, got another car and tried to stop texting.
"I tried really, really hard not to," Terry says. "Then it got to the point where I would do it only once every 5 minutes. I would rarely do it — it got to the point where when I was alone in the car, I would do it," she says. "I don't know — it's just so addicting, I just can't put it down."
Within a year of her first accident, Terry did it again — she slammed into the back of semi while she was texting. This time, she escaped injury.
The story goes on to ask if people are ready to stop texting while driving, and it describes a device that will disable a cell phone while a person is in a car in an effort to help people like Brandi stay safe on the roads.
Regardless of whether or not this is a valuable piece of technology (doesn’t the power button on the phone serve the same purpose without the added expense?), it would seem to me that the heart of this story is not the newfangled technology that disables cell phones but the simple fact that Brandi Terry is a complete and utter moron and dangerously stupid.
After a recovery that snapped her arm in two and prevented her from walking for six months, she said (I know I’m being repetitious, but it’s so astoundingly stupid that it’s worth reading again):
“I tried really, really hard not to. Then it got to the point where I would do it only once every 5 minutes. I would rarely do it — it got to the point where when I was alone in the car, I would do it. I don’t know — it’s just so addicting, I just can’t put it down.”
In the words of my wife:
This girl is driving and texting every five minutes?
This is not alcohol that we are talking about. This is not nicotine or gambling or OxyContin or any other legitimately addictive drug.
This is texting to friends about boys and clothes and homework and the mall from the same device that is capable of making a phone call. And even though speaking on the phone while driving is also distracting and dangerous, it is exponentially safer than texting. Yet after nearly perishing in an accident as a result of her texting, she is doing it again less than a year later and is still wrecking her vehicle in the process.
Even if texting were addictive (WHICH IT IS NOT), one need not text while driving. Many alcoholics and drug addicts manage to refrain from using their substance of choice while driving, and I have yet to hear about a compulsive gambler playing blackjack or roulette while driving.
Besides, If you must text, Brandi, pull over.
Upon reflection, I would like to propose a change in the title of this story to:
Brandi Terry, despite any amount of intelligence that she may possess, is an idiot who must be removed from the roads immediately and forever.
It’s a little wordy, I know, but at least it’s a more accurate representation of the story.
Am I being harsh? I don’t think so. Frankly, I think that NPR’s Jenny Brundin let Brandi and the other idiot teenagers who she interviewed off the hook, failing to challenge statements like:
"I love texting and driving; it's the in thing. Everyone does it — who doesn't?"
Brundin couldn’t come up with one decent follow-up question to a statement like that? Not one?
Apparently not. If she did, it did not make an appearance in the story.
Harsh? I would contend that calling a 19-year old girl a dangerous idiot only seems harsh until she plows into your own car while texting and driving for a third time, killing a loved one and maiming you for life.
Then words like dangerous and idiot may seem trite and a tad inconsequential.