Be mindful on the road, not distracted

If you’re wondering what the equivalent to a blind person driving the length of a football field is, it’s you looking at your phone for five seconds on the highway.

Seton Hill adds a speed bump on campus to ensure safe driving. Photo courtesy of A.Long

Seton Hill adds a speed bump on campus to ensure safe driving. Photo courtesy of A.Long

The National Safety Council estimates that in 2013, 795,000 car crashes in the United States involved drivers using cell phones and texting.

A Carnegie Mellon study shows driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent.

Using a cell phone while driving delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a Blood Alcohol Content of 0.08 (the top of the legal limit) according to the University of Utah.

Cross walks were added around campus. Photo courtesy of A.Long

Cross walks were added around campus. Photo courtesy of A.Long

And I understand that these statistics might not mean anything to you right now, but they will surely make an impact when you are affected by distracted driving in one form or another. It could happen to anyone.

It happened to a family friend of mine. His name was Owen Brezitski, and he was eight-years-old when he was killed by a distracted driver. It happened in an instant because a 17-year-old was trying to find the perfect song to play from her cell phone one St. Patrick’s night five years ago. She never had time to see him in the crosswalk. He was pronounced dead shortly after, and the Brezitskis were left with the task of having to pick up the pieces of their altered family.

The white paint of the new cross walk reminds drivers to be cautious. Photo courtesy of A.Long

The white paint of the new cross walk reminds drivers to be cautious. Photo courtesy of A.Long

Not wanting to let the issue lay without speaking about it, the Brezitskis created Owen’s Foundation shortly after Owen’s death, to make sure that this tragedy never happened to anyone else. It began with orange bracelets that read “Slow Down, Save a Life.” But as the distracted driving was made aware to the case, their slogan changed to “Slow Down, Be Alert, Save a Life.”

Soon, there were events being held, tee shirts being sold, special interviews and speeches being given by members of the Brezitski family. Then it was donations, fundraisers and awards being offered from other groups and organizations. Through the effort of the entire community, new fluorescent crossing signs were installed around Bishop McDevitt High School, a Harrisburg, Pa. area high school. And, as a future goal, the Brezitskis hope to bring back Driver’s Education, free to Bishop McDevitt and other local high schools of the community.

Orange for Owen has since spread all over the United States and to different countries around the world. And, Owen’s story continues to humble and encourage people to make a pledge to be safer drivers.

Even at Seton Hill University, we can see the impact that tragedies like the ones the Brezitskis endured have had on our campus. With the repainting of crosswalks and fire lanes, with the addition of crosswalks and speed bumps, driver and pedestrian safety is being enforced.

Owen's Foundation logo. Photo courtesy of A.Long

Owen’s Foundation logo. Photo courtesy of A.Long

Although we may find these additional safety precautions a nuisance sometimes, or may be enticed by the ding of a text message from our phones, I think that if the shoe was on the other pedal and we were in the line of a distracted driver, we’d hope it was on the brake pedal. So the next time you think about blowing through that stop sign, or ignoring the speed limit, or wanting to answer that call, find a way to do it that isn’t jeopardizing anyone’s safety, including your own. And, keep distracted unrelated to driving.

For more information on Orange for Owen and Owen’s Foundation visit the Orange for Owen Charitable Organization Facebook page or orangeforowen.org.

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