Opinion: My Cousin Died While Talking on her Cellphone and Driving

Her Fatal Crash Likely Caused by Distracted Driving

JaMary Wells, my 22-year-old cousin, was talking on her smartphone while driving. The distraction cost JaMary her life.

As I began to get more information about the accident, I found out that my cousin suffered cranial injuries from the accident in which her car slammed into a tree. She slipped into an irreversible coma. I was told my cousin was in a single car accident and she had actually been on the phone talking to her boyfriend while on the way home from work when the accident occurred.

When I heard the tragic news,  my body went numb, the room went quiet despite the background noise of my television, and everything around me became very still.  I was in shock. I couldn’t believe someone so close to me, in age and in spirit, had died, just like that.

I believe that if she weren’t talking on her smartphone, she would be alive.

The National Safety Council (NSC) estimates that at least 28% of all traffic crashes, or at least 1.6 million crashes each year, involve drivers using smartphones.

President & CEO of the National Safety Council, Janet Froetscher, was quoted on the NSC website saying, “We know that cell phone use is a very risky distraction and texting is even higher risk. We now know that cell phone use is a factor in many more crashes than texting. The main reason is that millions more drivers use cell phones than text,” she said. “That is why we need to address both texting and cell phone use on our roads.” 

Data derived from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 25% of all crashes, or 1.4 million crashes, involve cell phone use, and 11% of drivers at any one time are using cell phones and from peer-reviewed research reporting cell phone use increases crash risk by four times.

I am a licensed driver. I admit I am guilty of both talking on the phone and texting while driving. I always think that it’ll only take a quick second. However, it only takes a quick second to lose your life.  I know a lot of young adults don’t fully take into consideration the risk factors of using a cell phone while driving, but they are real and could cause you to hurt yourself or someone else.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one of the risk factors of using a cell phone while driving is that it takes the driver’s attention away from not only operating the vehicle, but also from the road around them.  A second risk factor is that younger-inexperienced drivers, especially under the age of 20, have the highest proportion of distracted related fatal crashes. The final risk factor is that texting and driving is linked to drinking and driving or riding with someone who has been drinking. In other words, one bad habit can lead to another.

Authorities have been cracking down on cellphone use while driving. Many states have enacted laws, such as banning cellphone use while driving or using graduated driver licensing systems for teen drivers to help raise awareness about the dangers of cellphone use while driving. Under D.C. driving laws, all District of Columbia drivers and novice drivers (drivers with a permit) are prohibited from using handheld cell phones while driving. Under the law, motorists can still dial a cell-phone call manually, but must use a hands-free device to talk on their cell phone while driving. 

I know some people may wonder how can I talk on my cell phone if I can’t physically use it.  Well, in today’s world of technology, you have a variety of options.  You can use speakerphone, a Bluetooth wireless device, a wired headset, such as headphones or ear buds and you can even install a car kit.  These devices are a small price to pay compared to your life or the life of someone else.

JaMary’s dying so young and so quickly opened my eyes to how precious and short life is, and if there is anything I can do to preserve it I will. I’ll start with putting my phone down while driving.