I recently read about a mom in Oklahoma who was driving six kids home from a water park last summer on the way to a soccer game. It was hot and she was probably tired, and with six kids in the car, ranging in age from 7-13, three of whom were hers and three of whom were her kids’ friends, I’m sure she was distracted. But something happened around 3:20pm on Monday July 17 coming back from Tulsa, and instead of slowing down to stop behind a semi-truck that was parked in front of her, she plowed into the back of it at full speed, killing herself and two kids– her son and one of his friends– instantly. The other four kids were air lifted out, but one of the 13 year-old girls, a friend of her older daughter’s, was taken off life support two days later. The other two 13 year-olds are still battling all sorts of injuries in the hospital two months later, one on a breathing tube relearning how to move and the other in a full body cast. The only child who escaped with no injuries, was the mom’s 7 year-old daughter, who was most likely in a booster seat. The boys, however, had no seat belts on, and no one is sure if the girls were belted. It is frankly amazing that anyone survived, given that the SUV drove at full speed into the back of a semi, and just folded in on itself like a giant accordion.
I keep thinking about this accident because so often my kids are being driven by other people and I have to assume that they will keep their eyes on the road and not text and not be distracted. I can’t imagine the family getting the call that their son was killed and two daughters fighting for their lives, and then realizing that one wasn’t going to make it. Pulling the plug on their 13 year-old is not what this family had planned. The mom who killed three other people, including her son, and severely injured two more, including one of her daughters, can’t be held accountable since she’s dead, but it’s clear from the traffic report that she was “unlawfully distracted.” I don’t know if that means she was texting, but the fact that she didn’t notice the truck was parked in front of her and was barreling at a high speed without any attempt to break (no skid marks), means most likely that she was looking down at her phone. Maybe an important text came in and she figured she knew this stretch of road like the back of her hand. She might have been running late, wanting to notify the coach of their whereabouts, apologizing for keeping the team waiting as she hauled an SUV filled with star soccer players. She might have turned around to ask the boys to stop throwing the nerf ball in the back, or to answer a quick question, or to quickly glance at her daughters’ phone at a cute picture, since we know the daughter was in the front with her feet propped up against the dash– the least safe way to travel.
What’s curious to me is that everyone is saying what a great mom this woman was, not mentioning the fact that her carelessness killed all these people. But for a lot of people, a great mom is someone who thinks nothing of driving a car full of kids to the water park, and then rushes back to a soccer game, organizing things on the phone along the way to make sure everything works perfectly, until it doesn’t. After the crash, the soccer coaches focused on what great athletes these kids were, and then added as an after thought that they were great kids. But I wonder if the hyper-competitive soccer atmosphere was part of the dynamic that made this woman forget that her most important job at 3:20 on that Monday was to the keep those kids safe. I’m also curious what will happen in the aftermath. Yes, there are Go Fund Me pages for both families. I do wonder if the other family will sue for wrongful death. But then, who do you sue? The surviving husband? Some commentators were blaming the state for constant construction and unsafe roads, but that’s true everywhere. But I think it’s safe to say in this case, the problem was a tired, distracted mom who took her eyes off the road for too long and no one in that town will ever be the same.
To find your world stage, remember where you are on the road of life. Don’t lose sight of the path or closer your eyes to obstacles. It’s okay to slow down or even temporarily stop, but if you go barreling ahead with no attention to what is around you, it could really cost you. And beyond the metaphor, remember to never mix texting and driving since it’s more dangerous than drunk driving. Always be aware of your surroundings and keep your eyes on the road, because in an instant everything could change.