Every driver has probably been there at some point — driving while distracted.
Whether it was intended or not, there are scenarios that play out in our day-to-day lives when we're behind the wheel. Maybe it's a quick call — or a simple text message.
But in an instant, that distraction could mean the difference between life and death.
Wednesday, Jan. 31 marked the three-year anniversary of an accident along Interstate 40 east of Shawnee that claimed the life of Trooper Nicholas Dees and seriously injured Trooper Keith Burch.
The troopers were investigating an accident scene when a distracted driver, who later admitted he was using his cell phone to update social media, struck both troopers with a sedan.
Dees died at the scene and Burch was seriously injured.
The driver was arrested, charged with manslaughter and later sentenced to a 5-year prison term.
At the time, there wasn't an Oklahoma law pertaining to texting while driving, but in May, 2015, Gov. Mary Fallin signed HB 1965 into law.
The “Trooper Nicholas Dees and Trooper Keith Burch Act of 2015” makes it illegal to text while driving.
And while that law may be somewhat of a deterrent, drivers are all too often seen using their phones behind the wheel. That's why awareness and continued education efforts on the dangers of distracted driving are still crucial elements in making the roads safer for all motorists.
Regular enforcement efforts also should be more of a priority.
Trooper Burch has recovered and returned to his patrol duties. On this anniversary of the accident, his wife, Kayla, shared a brief story about the night of the accident and watching her husband fight for his life. She talked about how one decision can cause great pain and forever change lives.
Through her message shared with the public on the Oklahoma Highway Patrol's Facebook page, she plead with everyone to put down their phones while driving, saying, “It's real. It's deep. It's not worth it.”
We hope that message resonates with every driver.
In another touching Facebook post shared by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, Trooper Dees' young daughter, Piper, is also getting the safety message out to students years before they can even drive.
Piper talked to her classmates about the importance of safe driving as she told the story about her father and how her life was forever changed by a distracted driver.
If everyone takes a moment to think about — and share — those kinds of messages, it can make a difference.