Driving under the influence of cellphone
This past summer I was stopped on my motorcycle, waiting to make a left turn. I was hit by a car from behind. My life since that moment has been quite challenging, painful and frustrating. For months I had been unable to do even the simplest of things for myself and have spent countless hours in hospitals and doctors' offices.
I correct concerned folks: This was not a motorcycle accident. It was a distracted driver collision. Moments before, I had seen this driver looking down into their lap.
The collision seemed to unfold in slow motion. After the initial impact to my leg between bumper and motorcycle, I was flying through the air understanding this was going to be bad. As my head hit the ground, I remember being thankful I had my helmet on, the sound of it scraping on the pavement still resonates with me today. I knew I was being thrown in front of an on-coming pickup, while tumbling, I braced myself waiting to be hit. The driver was cited only for following too closely and was issued a minimal fine.
This collision left me with a shattered ankle, broken fibula, three broken fingers, two crushed knuckles, a torn meniscus in my wrist, a fractured rib, shoulder damage, road rash and a fractured heel. My ankle is now reinforced with two steel plates, seven pins and cables.
Data shows distracted driving is six times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated and accounts for about 25 percent of all car accidents.
The driver posted about this event on Facebook stating they didn’t see me and has since posted three “selfies” while behind the wheel of a moving car. Clearly nothing has been learned from this experience.
Since that day, I have become extremely aware and angered by the quantity of drivers I see who are either on the phone or appear to be texting.
Hands-on cellphone use is against the law, yet it is often disregarded because the need for communication is greater than the fear of the penalty. The violation for cellphone use in Oregon is $500, actually higher than many other states. The number of offenders might be reduced if the consequence of their actions was more severe. I will be talking with our state and federal representatives to advocate for stiffer penalties. I would encourage those who share my concern to do so as well. Penalties for cellphone use should be similar to those of open containers.
I spoke with our police department about this issue. There is a system in place to report distracted drivers. A form is available at the station. The time, location, vehicle, license plate and a good description of the driver are required. A patrol officer will be notified for follow-up.
Although this is a step in the right direction, the reality is, it is easier to overlook the incident than to take the time to report it. I would encourage everyone to take advantage of this system. Perhaps cellphone use would be reduced if the users were not only on the lookout for police officers.
I would like to see a toll-free number put into place so passengers in vehicles can report distracted driving. This could show a pattern and frequency of violation.
It is currently my responsibility to cover all medical costs and lost wages. The responsible insurance company has two years before any settlement needs to be paid. Expenses have already exceeded $100,000. A collision of this magnitude not only affects the victim, it has a trickle-down effect that also involves the family and in my case as a business owner, my employees and their families as well.
I would like to take this opportunity to say thank you to my family and friends for their support and encouragement. Also I appreciate the talent of the team of surgeons, doctors and physical therapists for their ability to both rebuild and re-strengthen my body. I still have a long road to recovery but I’m on the right track.
A quote from the Facebook posts of the person who hit me: “He is okay-ish … LOL. At least he’s not dead.” No one intentionally thinks they would be in a situation like this, but every time you take your eyes off of the road to look at your cellphone, even for a few seconds, you could change somebody’s life forever. Please don’t use a cellphone while driving.
Ken Ogden lives in Medford.