DISTRACTED DRIVING AWARENESS SCHOLARSHIP WINNER – DOMENIC FLEMING
Distracted driving puts everyone around you, including yourself, in danger. My generation does not know how to focus on one thing at a time and this is extremely obvious when we are behind the wheel of our cars. Between using our GPS, texting, calling, Snapchat, Twitter, Facetime, and choosing which song to listen to on Spotify – our focus is not on the road. Several of my friends drive after drinking, smoking pot or while super tired after a long night of partying or after a long day at work. It’s affected my life in a big way, particularly on Prom Night 2017.
Prom is one of those nights you look forward to as soon as you enter high school. At Midview, we couldn’t wait to be upperclassmen and have a great night dancing, goofing off and hanging out with our friends at prom. The night is special and it’s one of those nights you’ll never forget. My senior prom didn’t end in the way we all envisioned when we woke up that morning, and it changed me, my classmates, and the Midview community forever.
My girlfriend, Lex and I went over every detail of what we would do that night for weeks. Prom at the German Club in Olmsted Falls, After-Prom at Strongsville Recreational Center and then end the night by staying at one of Lex’s friend’s homes, along with several of our other classmates. This wasn’t my first prom, or After-Prom for that matter. I looked forward to After-Prom as much as I did the dance itself. There is a huge pool, slide and hot tub at the Rec Center, along with carnival games, food, prizes, face painting, fake tattoos, bounce houses, basketball, and everything is free with your $15 ticket. All of our friends go and we have a blast until 3 am when we are released to go home. It’s a safe, secure place for us to hang out and be together without our parents worrying about what we’re up to. In fact, most of our parents put together After-Prom and not only check every bag when we enter the Rec Center, but they act as security guards, making sure we don’t leave before we’re allowed. They check to make sure that no one is under the influence or bringing alcohol or drugs into the event.
It’s a long day and a long night, but everyone has a great time. Seriously, we had so much fun and all commented to each other how great the day was! We were all tired when finally released after the last prize is handed out, but some kids stayed behind to swim, eat and hang out some more. Lex and I were exhausted and left right behind our friends, Chase and Lindsey.
The Rec Center is about 15 miles from where our school district is, and it is one straight shot down Route 82 to get to the friend’s house where Lex and myself were planning to spend the night. It’s mostly country road, dark with no traffic lights, no curves or turns. Lex was already starting to fall asleep in the car before we were even out of Strongsville and heading toward Columbia Station. Every time I would look into my rearview mirror, I was very well aware that there were never any car lights behind me.
And then Chase’s car swerved. Nothing crazy; just a little bit. I thought he was on his phone or talking to his girlfriend. Another mile later, he swerved again, but this time more violently. I told myself that he probably lost track of the road since it was so dark. We were the only two cars on the road. As we got closer to Columbia High School, just past the half-way point between Strongsville and Midview, Chase had almost hit a couple of mailboxes. I was concerned he may drive into a ditch or swerve left of center so I woke up Lex. I asked her to try and get through to either Lindsey or Chase through text or Snapchat to ask if they were OK.
We couldn’t reach them, but I told myself that Chase was almost to his house; the turnoff was coming up in a minute. Only he didn’t turn. He was taking Lindsey back to her house about 6 more miles down the road. Lindsey lived past where Route 82 dead ends into Route 57 and Chase would need to make a sharp, 90-degree turn to the right. The voice in my head told me they were not going to be able to make that turn, but then Chase would drive straight for a while and I brushed the voice off.
They didn’t make it.
Chase never made the turn and hit a steel pole where Route 82 dead ends going full speed. Lex and I were right behind them and saw the accident. I quickly pulled over to the gas station, told Lex to call 911, and ran across the street to Chase’s car. I remember looking down that long stretch of road and remembered not seeing a single headlight. In total shock at what I had just witnessed, I opened the car door to find blood and glass everywhere. Chase was still conscious but Lindsey was not. Lex tried to come across the street to ask if they were OK and I shouted to her to stay over there – they were not OK.
Chase’s car was still running. I told him to turn off his engine and he listened. Chase sat Lindsey up in her seat, and when I saw her, I knew she was gone. The sight of her was horrific. She wasn’t breathing, she wasn’t moving, there was glass all over her and in her neck. She was gone.
And then I saw car lights coming down Route 82. The kids – the kids are all coming this way from After-Prom. I kept as many away as I could; I didn’t want them to see this. The driver from one of the prom limos helped us pull Lindsey out of Chase’s car. The police called her mother, who arrived on the scene with Lindsey’s little brother in her arms. After-Prom parents and the rest of the Midview community all gathered at the gas station and watched on – holding each other tight.
One of us didn’t make it home. Chase fell asleep at the wheel and killed someone he cared about very much. Lindsey had fallen asleep on Chase’s shoulder and therefore, the airbags could not protect her from the impact. Lindsey’s friends, family, and community continue to mourn her death, as she would have graduated this May.
Distracted driving is not just about devices taking your attention from the road; it’s anytime your focus is not on driving. The only way my generation is going to stop allowing themselves to get behind the wheel and treat driving like it is anything less than the most important thing you are doing at the time is through peer pressure. Peer pressure is the best way to get teens and young adults to do anything, good or bad. We have to scold each other when we see each other taking selfies in the car, using our GPS instead of figuring out where we’re going before we leave the house, or adding to our Snapchat story while driving. We shouldn’t be getting behind the wheel when we’re tired, high, drunk or hung over. We shouldn’t be getting behind the wheel when we are mad at our girlfriend, angry from losing the big game or any other time our focus is not in the right place. Adults can lecture kids all day long about distracted driving, but kids don’t listen to adults. Kids listen to other kids their age. It is up to us to hold each other accountable and call out our friends when we see them behaving badly behind the wheel – whatever that may look like.