Wednesday, May 23, 2012

DD Advocate Smith Writes Back

Remember back in May when I wrote to Jennifer Smith, distracted driving advocate and my personal hero? The realistic side of my brain said people are too busy to read and respond to every piece of mail they receive. That left brain says, "It's good therapy for you to keep trying to reach everyone though." Well guess what, Lefty! Jennifer wrote me back! She also agreed to be a guest blogger for this site soon. Here's some of her response to my outreach...

Jennifer Smith at her mother's
crash site (photo source)

Hello Jaimee,

...I am so sorry to hear of the loss of your sister. I, all too well, understand the unexpected loss of a loved one so senselessly. I would be more than happy to write a guest blog for you. As you know, this type of work is what keeps me going and talking about the loss and fighting to make a change is my therapy. I have been fortunate enough to have met some of the most amazing families in this journey and the losses we have suffered are the common bond we all wish we did not have. I am sorry you could not make it to the summit but very soon we will have the videos available form the event and you can watch the whole thing. The panels provided a lot of education and information, and they are meant to be shared with anyone and every one to educate them and bring about a change in behaviors so others do not have to suffer our same losses.

We have so many families in Texas that have joined together to comfort each other and to ensure the much needed changes occur in laws and behaviors. From the summit we are putting together an event to be held at the Capitol in Austin sometime in January with Representative Craddick and Senator Zaffarini's offices as they will be re-introducing more legislation during the next session.  We want to get all of the families there and speak to the legislators about our losses and why the state must do something to stop these tragedies from occurring.  I will make sure and let you know when we have more details on the event, and I would be more than happy to connect you with some of the other families in the state so you can work with them as well.

Please feel free to contact me anytime for anything.  I am traveling a lot but I will always find time to connect. I consider people like you my new family and together we can help each other get through the most horrific experiences in our lives.  Please offer the rest of your family my condolences and keep up your great work...

Friday, May 18, 2012

I pledge not to text and drive because...

Check out the video on Parkview Hospital's Don't Text and Drive Page...then tell us why you pledge to not text and drive. Who/what do you love more than texting and driving?

I pledge not to text and drive because I love...

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Where Do We Draw the Line?

It never fails that when someone is wronged in some way, they want justice. We all (even if only secretly) want those who hurt us to be punished. If you hurt or kill someone because you are driving under the influence, you receive jail time. In Texas, it's called Intoxication Assault or Intoxication Manslaughter and is punishable with a fine not more than $10,000, 2 to 20 years in prison, and from 160 to 800 hours of community service.

We've heard about it since we were in grade school, DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE! It is a willful act to drink alcohol or use drugs and then operate your vehicle. It is also a willful act to operate your cellular device (texting/calling/updating) while also operating your vehicle. Studies show that distracted driving is comparable to drinking and driving with regard to accidents. So why are there no legal consequences for those drivers who hurt or kill someone while they are driving distracted? Should there be? How do you draw the line? Where do you draw the line?

Read these stories and weigh in:,0,6544388.story

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Do Something Now about Distracted Driving...Not Later When You've Lost So Much!

Everyday, I look for more information on distracted driving. It really doesn't take more than a simple Google search of the news to find a plethora of intel. I was about to post this story about a widow in Roanoke honoring her husband by speaking out against distracted driving with the comment, "Do something about distracted driving before you are left doing it in honor of someone you lost." Then it dawned on me that this was the post I wanted to write today.

It shames me to say that I have not always driven distraction free. I have broken every rule that I now live by plus some. In 2009, I actually rear-ended an SUV because I was emotionally compromised by an incident at work and did not stop in time. Thankfully, no one was hurt (except my little plastic car). You would think that this near miss would have shook me awake. However, it was the loss of my beautiful sister Gayla that finally put me into gear. No one listens to you until you make a mistake has been a truism that I have often considered. I'll revise it to say no one listens until you're gone.

Be aware and share what you know with the ones you love. Don't wait until you are left with a broken heart before you remove distractions from your driving. Don't tell yourself the lie that you are different, you can handle it, you can do it better, it won't happen to you. You are 23 times more likely to be in a wreck when you are distracted by texting on your cellar equipment. Drivers who use hand-held devices are 4 times more likely to get into crashes. When you're sending or receiving a text, you take your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. At 55 mph, that is the same as driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Distracted Driving Awareness is my Purpose

I don't tend to throw out the biblical references too faith is very personal, and I am very private about it. However, yesterday I felt like God was revealing my purpose and I want to share. 

Isaiah 66:9 Easy-to-Read Version (ERV) 9 "In the same way, I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born.” The LORD says this: “I promise that if I cause you the pain of birth, I will not stop you from having your new nation.” Your God said this.

I have spent the last year of my life struggling to understand God's purpose and reasoning for the loss of my sister. I have read that it's actually part of the mourning process to have a crisis of faith sometimes. Yesterday, I had had a particularly hard day at work and was ready to call it a day early just to go hide my frustration and pain. However, I hesitated, arguing with myself about not giving in to the ill feelings and toughing it out. 

While I hesitated, our office's mail carrier walked in to deliver our mail and try to cool off a bit. She and I often exchange the pleasantries and polite conversation of acquaintanceship. However, we've never really delved any deeper than passing humor. Yesterday, she was resting in the cool while I retrieved her a glass of ice water (my mama and daddy were both mail carriers so I know the Texas heat can take its toll quite easily). I simply asked, "How has your day been going?" Her response was the polite "Okay."

Then our conversation turned as she began to ask about my family, my mother and father being postal carriers, them being retired and trying to enjoy their leisure, my sister's death, and then distracted driving. I hadn't really considered myself an expert in this arena until I started spouting the research and talking about the epidemic that is distracted driving. At the climax of our exchange, our mail carrier was visibly affected by the information. I could see her pondering and thinking about the information. When she and I were ready to part ways, she walked away from our conversation with a new insight. I hope that insight helps her to make wise choices when driving and that she too passes on the information to those who will listen. 

I felt better and the bad day lightened with this exchange. Then later in the day, I stumbled across Isaiah 66:9. I felt like God was reminding me of His promise...He will not bring pain without also allowing something new to be born. From the pain of losing my sister was born this challenge of educating everyone with whom I come into contact about distracted driving. 

The Facts I Shared:

  • From Distracted Driving Safety Alliance--Even with a blue tooth or hands free device, we can be distracted from our driving by inattentive blindness.
  • From this blog--emotional driving and inattention blindness 
  • From driving is any activity that could divert a person's attention away from the primary task of driving.All distractions endanger driver, passenger, and bystander safety. These types of distractions include:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Distracted Driving is ALL Y'ALL'S Responsibility

Back in 2000, I lived for a brief moment in Hoboken, New Jersey. Being from East Texas, it was a fun game for my cohorts to get me to say things..."Say something!" was always the first command at my arrival to functions. I don't think I have an accent but everyone has their own opinion. My favorite funny question was, "What's the plural of 'y'all'?" I responded, "I don't know, 'ALL Y'ALL'?"


Because I am constantly reading up on the latest news and trends, I have come across several online articles throwing responsibility back and industry, cellular industry, driver, passenger, legislature, enforcement....blah, blah, flippin' blah!

My mama always told me that the only person I could control was ME. I have a caveat to that...The only person I can control is me, but I can influence anyone willing to listen.

Each and every driver is responsible for their behaviors while driving. If you are a passenger, then you have a choice as to whether you will be a distraction. Auto and cellular industries, you stand to make a fortune if you can help everyone travel more safely and without distraction (think of it as a challenge to figure out the most complicated puzzle). Legislature and enforcement, are you too afraid to put regulations out that ban? Then at least create something that provides for punishment in the event of death, injury and/or destruction of property.

Honestly, all y'all...this is NOT rocket science or brain surgery! Drive when you're behind the wheel. Don't wreck your or someone else's life by being distracted from operating that machine of which you are in control.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Letter to Jennifer Smith, Advocate and a Personal Hero

I was excited last week to see more fans joining the Distracted Driving Awareness movement via our FaceBook page. One of the newest fans has also, to quote her web site, "been one of the leading advocates against distracted driving since her mother was killed by a driver talking on a cell phone on Sept. 3, 2008. She was the one of the founding board members and past President of FocusDriven and now continues to work to prevent this dangerous epidemic from happening to others by sharing her story and the science and latest research behind the dangers of driving while distracted. Jennifer also consults with families who have lost loved ones or been injured by a distracted driver so they can start their own grassroots efforts to change the culture of our society." Here is the letter I sent to Jennifer Smith this morning:

Dear Jennifer,

Please picture in your mind that I am standing up and applauding you for all of your efforts to bring about awareness of the epidemic that is distracted driving. I also send you a heart-felt hug of comfort for the loss of your beautiful mother, my deepest condolences. Unfortunately, I was not even aware of this killer until I lost my beautiful 38-year-old sister Gayla to a distracted truck driver on March 19, 2011. Thank you for becoming a fan of my FaceBook page and for letting me know about the summit…I wish I could have been there. I would like to ask you a couple of things. Would you write a guest post on the blog that I created, Also, how can I partner with you to help with the distracted driving awareness movement?

Gayla was my sister, but she was also my best friend, my rock. She was the oldest child in our close-knit family of five. My parents are beyond devastated, and my brother and I feel their pain as it is like a whole section of who we are is missing. Sister was the most amazing amount of sunshine within a gorgeous soul the world could ever imagine. I speak in hyperbole because to understand the depth of this chasm of pain our family, friends and I now suffer, you must first understand the immense joy we had in our lives when Gayla was here. 

It has been more than a year since Sister was killed. Each holiday and special occasion and for that matter any given day in the last year of our lives has been heartbreak without Gayla. Even when I lived in New York in 2000, I never went more than a couple of months without seeing my sister, and now a year has become an eternity without her. Every day it feels like this hole in my heart just gets bigger and bigger.

Gayla was killed by a distracted truck driver. He told the authorities he looked down to put his tractor trailer back into gear as he down shifted in stalled and sluggish traffic rather than braking. No one was in that 18-wheeler's cab but our lawyer has indicated that there might have been a cellular device involved. It could have been a moment to look down to find a new radio station or balance a toppling coffee cup while dashboard dining. Regardless, that truck driver was doing something that distracted him from his job...driving his rig safely. He plowed into the rear of Sister's little mid-sized sedan sending her barreling into a wire guardrail. The impact broke her neck and killed her instantly and robbed this family of our Gayla.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope that I can work with you to bring about the changes that so desperately need to happen to help prevent our tragedies from repeating themselves and destroying other families.

Jaimee Hunter

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Kasey Kahne Featured in PSA about Distracted Driving

Last year at this time, I was writing to NASCAR's Kasey Kahne to tell him that one of his biggest fans, my sister Gayla, had been killed by a distracted driver. Why would I do that? Read the post on my other blog to see. Nevertheless, as disappointed as I was a year ago, I am proud that Kasey is getting on board with the distracted driving awareness initiative.