“My dad lost both of his legs above the knee due to a distracted driver.”

This award-winning essay was written by Breonna Hughes. Breonna’s father, Brad Hughes, speaks to corporate, school, and military groups about the dangers of distracted driving. He is one of DRIVE SMART Virginia’s most dedicated volunteers. Brad asks that you sign our petition urging the General Assembly to Make Virginia Drivers Put Down the Phone.

Brad Hughes with NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne

At 16, what does every teenager have on their mind? Most have getting their license or figuring out who to invite to their sweet sixteen party. However, I had planning the trip of a lifetime as a priority; I was getting ready to embark on a trip to Ireland to perform in a parade on St. Patrick’s Day with my high school’s band. Little did I know that distracted driving would change the course of not only the trip, but my entire life.

On March 17, 2014, we performed in the parade, had a great night on the town, and got to experience Ireland at its finest. At 2am, my mom woke up to a phone call from my grandmother. I awoke not knowing what was going on or what time it was, but I could feel the panic and worry in the room. At that point I knew something was wrong. My mom informed me that we needed to go home as soon as possible. I assumed that the whole band needed to leave, but then she told me that only the two of us had to go home. As of that moment all I knew was that my dad had been in a crash and we had to fly 3,424 miles back home.

After spending hours on planes getting home, we made it back to reality and I had to face what was to come. Once we got to the hospital, I found out what really happened to my dad. When I got into the ICU, I saw my dad lying there with wires and tubes all around him. There were nurses and monitors at every corner of the tiny room. After hearing the news from my mom and dad and the very friendly nurses, I had to come to terms with the fact that my dad had lost both of his legs above the knee due to a distracted driver. I never knew how many tears a person could cry within the span of a few hours.

The past few years have consisted of daily hospital visits for the month my dad was there, months of home physical therapy and then outpatient therapy three days a week, house construction to widen doors and make the house more adaptable for my dad, a whirlwind of emotions and tears. My dad has had to learn how to adapt to life’s daily routine in a whole new way. My family’s life was changed in an instant because of one person who made the choice to look away from the road for a few seconds and become distracted. Distracted driving is something that has become a more common thing for drivers. If you are stopped at a stoplight and look at the person next to you it is likely you will see them on their phone texting or checking their Facebook, looking at themselves in the mirror, or fixing the radio. Distracted driving is more than texting and driving.

The definition of distracted driving is “the practice of driving a motor vehicle while engaged in another activity.” Therefore applying your makeup, adjusting the air conditioner, eating, talking on the phone or to the passenger in the car, trying to calm down two kids in the backseat who won’t stop arguing over who gets the last piece of the snack, and even checking out the house on the side of the road that just went up for sale all fall under the definition of distracted driving. It is something that most people can admit to and say they have done. Every person who has a license or learner’s permit needs to make a conscious effort to pay attention to the road at all times. It is one of the many things I vow to never do while I drive, but I can’t be the only one who vows to never do these things. If one person promises to try and change the way they act when they drive and teach it to their family members and friends, the amount of crashes and careless mistakes can drop immensely.

Overall, my life throughout these past few years has been a roller coaster ride because of a distracted driver. This experience has taught me things I would have never realized if it had never happened. My family’s life has been changed forever and I never want to be the cause of something like this to another family. In consequence this is why I promise to never text and drive.

– Breonna Hughes

Filed Under: Distracted Driving, Teens, Winter Weather