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08 August 2017

Family Tragedy

Broderick Photography
Lindsey Schmidt, 29 years old and pregnant, was driving her three young sons to camp when their Subaru was rammed by a pickup truck that blew a stop sign, killing her and one-year-old Kaleb instantly. Four-year-old Weston died Tuesday at the hospital and six-year-old Owen died Thursday morning.The 25-year-old unnamed male driver, who only had minor injuries, may have been texting at the time of the crash, although as of this writing no charges have been filed...

  • Cell phones are involved in 64% of all traffic accidents, causing six million crashes each year, according to the National Safety Council.
  • One out of every four car accidents is caused by texting and driving.
  • Each day, at least 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver--over 78 percent of whom are distracted by texting.

Schmidt family tragedy
by Friendly Curmudgeon, chicagonow.com, 29 July 2017 

From time to time, something appears in the news that is so unspeakably horrific and tragic that it puts all of your own little problems into stark perspective. What happened to the Schmidt family in Beecher, Illinois, last Monday is one of those stories.

By now most people who have been keeping up with local news are aware of the living nightmare this family is going through. Lindsey Schmidt, 29 years old and pregnant, was driving her three young sons to camp when their Subaru was rammed by a pickup truck that blew a stop sign, killing her and one-year-old Kaleb instantly. Four-year-old Weston died Tuesday at the hospital and six-year-old Owen died Thursday morning.

Lindsey and her family were active in their church and the small, tight-knit community. Today a young father, Edward Schmidt, is mourning the loss of his wife and all of his children. He will likely never be whole again.

It was reported that the 25-year-old unnamed male driver, who only had minor injuries, may have been texting at the time of the crash, although as of this writing no charges have been filed.

Meanwhile, the same day on Lake Shore Drive, a woman who was reportedly speeding and weaving in and out of lanes lost control of her car and crossed the median from the southbound into the northbound lanes, colliding with several other vehicles. In this incident, unlike the one in Beecher, it appears that the person at fault was the only fatality.

It bears noting that in the Beecher case, there is yet no known proof that the driver who caused the accident was using his phone. But whether he was texting or just speeding, he ran through a stop sign and in an instant, destroyed an entire family.

I wonder when I hear these stories, where is it people are going that is so important that it’s worth dying for, or taking the lives of innocent parties? What is the hurry?

I think there are few among us who have not known someone or known of someone who lost their lives to a reckless or drunk driver.

The driving and texting thing, to me, is beyond the pale. When they passed a law against it I thought, really, isn’t this a no-brainer? How can you keep your eyes on your phone screen and on the road at the same time?

Here are some of the scary and sobering statistics:

  • Cell phones are involved in 64% of all traffic accidents, causing six million crashes each year, according to the National Safety Council.
  • One out of every four car accidents is caused by texting and driving.
  • Each day, at least 8 people are killed and 1,161 injured in crashes that involve a distracted driver--over 78 percent of whom are distracted by texting.
  • People who drive while sending or reading text messages are 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash than other drivers.
  • Texting while driving is now the top cause of death among teenagers, accounting for 11 teen deaths every day in the U.S.
  • In March 2017, 13 people were killed in Texas when a texting truck driver slammed into their church bus.
  • In 2008, a train derailment killed 25 people in California because the train engineer was texting.

Car and Driver magazine conducted a 2010 study that concluded texting while driving is more dangerous than driving intoxicated.

Most states prohibit drivers from texting, including Illinois, where the fine for a first offense is $75, on the low end compared with other states. By way of comparison, the fine for parking in a handicapped parking space is about $200. Technology is being developed to enable law enforcement to detect texting by drivers, but it remains a serious problem.

But cold statistics don't move us the way a photograph does.

It may be hard for younger people to believe there was a time in America when driving drunk carried no stigma and few penalties. Before the mid-1980s, it was not taken seriously by the law. Someone who caused an accident, even a fatal accident, driving drunk usually received a slap on the wrist. It was called a socially acceptable form of murder.

I know firsthand because I lost a high school friend to a drunk driver. She was a pedestrian. I’ll spare the stomach-turning details of her death but let’s just say it involved unimaginable suffering.

Then a small grassroots organization changed all that—Mothers Against Drunk Driving. MADD is virtually single-handedly responsible for forcing lawmakers to take the carnage from drunk driving seriously, promoting anti-DUI education and dramatically reducing the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths. There is now a considerable social stigma associated with driving drunk and tougher penalties for DUI in almost every state.

If it turns out the guy in Beecher was texting when he slaughtered the Schmidt family, he should do serious jail time. But he won’t, because driving while texting is to the 21st century what driving drunk was before circa-1985. It’s socially accepted, if technically illegal. But its victims are no less dead, survivors' lives no less torn apart.

Just as getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking is a conscious choice to drive impaired, texting while driving is a conscious choice to do something you should know will impair your ability to drive safely and endanger others.

It is time that texting while driving is subject to the same stigma and penalties as DUI. It’s the only thing that will deter it. It is time to get serious.

If you disagree, take a look at the family in the photograph above, which is now reduced to one member. The next time you're tempted to read or send a text in the car, think of that photograph.

This insanity has got to stop. Now.

Funeral services for Lindsey Schmidt and her three children will be held Tuesday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Crete, Ill.

Donations to help the Schmidt family can be mailed to The Schmidt Family Fund, PO Box 457, Beecher, IL 60401. Trinity Lutheran Church is accepting online donations through its website.

Friendly Curmudgeon
I am a writer, lawyer, and Generation X-er who has worked for such publications as the Wall Street Journal and Kiplinger's. I currently live in Edgewater where I share my home with one curmudgeonly cat. Feel free to e-mail me at friendlycurmudgeon@yahoo.com. Thank you for reading!

http://www.chicagonow.com/friendly-curmudgeon/2017/07/schmidt-family-tragedy-driving-while-texting-is-the-new-drunk-driving/

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