There’s no question about it—distracted driving has become one of the most dangerous aspects of being on the road today in the United States. According to the National Highway and Transportation Safety Administration, in 2017, a shocking total of 3,166 people were killed in accidents where one or both drivers were distracted.
That averages out to 60 fathers, mothers, spouses, children, and friends whose lives are cut short every week. Can anything be so important that it’s worth risking your life and the lives of others?
A tragic case from North Carolina a few years ago showed how something we all do every day could end a life.
Investigators believe a driver was posting about a 'Happy' song on Facebook seconds before she crashed and died on…
Unfortunately, our knowledge about the dangers of distracted driving doesn’t seem to have translated into action. Despite the fact that those interviewed in a AAA study in 2018 said that distracted driving was a bigger threat than drunk driving, “nearly half (49 percent) of drivers report recently talking on a hand-held phone while driving and nearly 35 percent have sent a text or email.”
For Courtney Ann Sanford, who was 32 years old at the time, it was just a typical morning on her way to work, driving down Business 85 near High Point, North Carolina. Then, in a matter of seconds, Sanford had crossed the median, hit an oncoming truck, and was dead. It happened in the blink of an eye.
But as police investigated the crash, they determined that Sanford hadn’t been speeding, nor did she have any drugs or alcohol in her system. What could have led her to such a deadly outcome?
Soon, Sanford’s friends were contacting the police, notifying them that she had been active on Facebook around the time the crash happened. “She was also posting some selfies as she went down the road,” Lieutenant Chris Weisner of the High Point Police Department told WGHP in High Point. As police delved further into the accident, the timing synced up perfectly.
“The Facebook [post] happened at 8:33 a.m. We got the call on the wreck at 8:34 a.m,” Weisner said. The last post that Sanford made was, in a grimly ironic way, about Pharrell Williams’s massive hit, “Happy,” which she had apparently been listening to just before her death.
When police got access to her Facebook page, they saw the words that had cost Sanford everything: “the happy song makes me HAPPY!”
To make matters worse, High Point Police said that Sanford wasn’t wearing her seatbelt properly, as reported by WGHP. As Sanford’s car hit the truck, it was thrown onto the side of the road and caught fire. Thankfully, the driver of the truck Sanford hit was unharmed, despite his truck slamming into a tree.
As Lt. Weisner put it: “in a matter of seconds, a life was over just so she could notify some friends that she was happy [and] that she was going to work.” Could such a small thing really be so important?
As advocates for safe driving have been trying to get across, any lapse in attention, however short, can be fatal. Though Sanford’s post wasn’t long, it only took her a few seconds to lose track of where she was on the road and veer off into oncoming traffic. Her speed was estimated to be only 45 miles per hour at the time of the accident, but that didn’t stop it from being deadly.
As Lieutenant Weisner underscored, ”as sad as it is, it is a grim reminder for everyone… you just have to pay attention while you are in the car.”
Unfortunately, these kinds of distracted-driving accidents don’t always just take the lives of those on their phones as a heartbreaking case from North Dakota illustrated a few years ago. A 20-year-old driver who had been texting and surfing the internet hit another car at 85 miles per hour, killing a great-grandmother in the car she rear-ended.
How many more of these accidents it will take to make people see that distracted driving is just as bad as, if not worse than, drunk driving is unclear. Hopefully, the message will get out before it’s too late.