(Long Island, N.Y.) In March of 2006, Miller Place mom Karen Torres received a life-changing phone call. Her father, Patrick Mapleson, a state Department of Transportation worker, was struck and killed by a distracted driver while working along the highway.
We are all guilty of it: reaching in your bag to find some gum, answering a call on your cell, eating a bagel on the go…the list is endless.
Karen has now made saving lives her mission. She travels all around Long Island sharing her father’s tragic death in hopes to inspire drivers to stay focused on the road. Her powerful message will change how you drive and how you view other drivers. I am proud to call her my friend and since meeting her, I am extra careful when I am driving (with my precious cargo in the back seats!) and my phone gets tucked away in my purse. Whatever it is…it can wait. There is just too much at stake.
I caught up with Karen in hopes she can inspire you, too and learn from her tragedy. Please, read on…
What exactly is “distracted driving” and why is it so deadly?
Anything that diverts your attention away from the roadway while you are driving is “distracted driving”. With so much technology available at our fingertips, I feel people are focusing more on what they can do while driving instead of what they should be doing, which is just drive.
Texting has become such an epidemic among motorists. People don’t realize that texting requires such a significant amount of our attention. You have to look at the screen, think about what you’re going to say and then your mind has to tell your fingers what to type.
According to statistics, the average text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds. With the environment constantly changing while we drive, how can you expect the roadway to look exactly the same when you look back up and why has this become such a priority over driving?
Motorists have to worry about distracted drivers every minute of every day and innocent people are losing their lives because of this deliberate, dangerous, selfish choice!
After a tragedy, many people become paralyzed by their loss. What made you spring into action to help save lives?
After my father’s death, I had such a strong desire to share his story. I have turned my tragedy into a learning tool to help prevent others from making the same mistake and hopefully saving lives along my way.
Your story is so powerful. How do the teens react after hearing your presentation?
I hand out evaluation forms at the end of each class. Most of the students say that having me share my personal story really makes them realize “WOW” this can really happen. A lot of them tell me they never realized just how dangerous distracted driving is or how many different types of distractions there are. The best ones to read are the ones that say “Thank you for saving my life”.
If there’s one main takeaway you try to leave drivers, what is it?
The next time you go to take your eyes off the road ask yourself “Is this really worth losing my life over or can it wait”?
How important is it for parents to educate their teens about distracted driving?
Parents have a huge influence on the way their teen drives. Parents need to understand that their children are in “Mommy & Daddy” driving school for the 1st 16 years of their life. They mirror what we do. If you speed, talk on your phone, text or drive under the influence, how can you expect your child not to pick up your bad habits? We can’t always say “do as I say, not as I do”.
As our teens become new drivers, it’s crucial for parents to educate them on distracted driving before they pick up any bad habits when they drive.
According to statistics, teens ages 16-20 have the highest fatality rate in the nation. I believe with early education this number will come down. It’s up to this generation to change the next!!
You are so dedicated to spreading awareness to this concerning issue. How can a parent help facilitate a visit by you to their child’s high school or driver’s education class?
If anyone would like to find out more information about my presentations, they can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.