A painful brush with distracted driving

April 29, 2010

At 2 a.m. on a quiet spring weekend, my family was abruptly awakened by the ear-splitting sound of crushing metal and broken glass just three stories below our bedroom window. As I frantically dialed 911, my husband descended the stairs of our urban dwelling to investigate what sounded like a fatal car accident. ( "A total loss", as our insurance report would later describe it).

That night we did, in fact, have to say goodbye to two family cars, a chunk of our perennial garden, 15 bricks on the wall of our 160-year old home and a six-foot segment of wrought-iron fence. Our neighbor fared only slightly better, suffering a gash to the driver's side of her borrowed sports car.

As we examined the scene, the perpetrator sat calmly in her car texting incessantly to some unknown recipient. There was no acknowledgment of the incident, no communication with the responding officer, no apologies extended to us; just fingertips racing across a keyboard — as they obviously had done just prior to the event.

To my astonishment, no breathalyzer was administered; it isn't required of someone who is addicted to a cell phone.

It has been three weeks since that fateful night. And yes, we acknowledge how lucky we were that no one was hurt. However, there are few things that compare to the insult, inconvenience and victimization through no fault of one's own by the recklessness of a distracted driver. We are now in possession of the Blue Book value of a paid-for car, while transporting ourselves in a rental until the insurance investigation is complete. And we seem to be performing our day jobs despite the stream of administrative distractions and property repairs.

Life as we knew it is slowly returning; however, we are jerked back to a moment three weeks ago every time we bend over to pick up a shard of headlight or a splinter of fencing.

Julie Mercer, Baltimore

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