To read about the “I won’t be that Sunday driver” attentive driving initiative, visit Amarillo Globe News at http://amarillo.com/news/local-news/2012-06-19/beilue-woman-makes-road-awareness-vow.

***

One Sunday, a wife lost her husband and two kids lost their father. My brother lost a friend, and his father-in-law lost his attorney.

On this Sunday, a young person drove a car down the wrong side of the road, the car veering to hit a bicyclist head on. The bicyclist flew through the air, landed in a ditch, and died before help arrived, his friend and co-worker powerless to do anything for him.

That Sunday, one person drove unsafely and another didn’t. One person walked away uninjured, another lost his life.

No matter what our excuse, when we operate a machine that can cause the death of others, we bear responsibility for its safe operation. That sends absolute shivers through me. You guys, I am a bicyclist and I am a driver. As a driver, I know I don’t always pay perfect attention. I know I have lost focus, veered, over-corrected at the last second, and strayed off path. I haven’t killed anyone, but I could have. And I’m a bicyclist, a person who worries about these things, who pictures metal slamming into flesh and pavement ripping into bone.

Seven years ago almost to the day, the exact same thing that happened on Sunday, happened to my husband Eric. Well, almost exactly the same thing. The only difference was that Eric didn’t die. He nearly did, and he endures pain every day and will the rest of his life, but he carries on almost normally. He lived. I still have him to hold.

I am angry at the woman who drove her car head-on into my husband. I really, really hate her for not paying attention, for not watching the road in front of her, for being on the wrong side of the road, for slamming her big, heavy, cold, hard steel car into my husband’s body.

I am sure that the family of this wonderful man who died on Sunday feels the same way toward his killer. And yet, but for the grace of God, there go I. Not often, not recklessly, but, sometimes, I lose my concentration for just long enough. I’m a Sunday driver, lacksadaisacal, forgetting the risks, normalizing the risks of this everyday activity.

I have to do better. I have to. Starting this Sunday when our friend died, my cell phone is going in my closed console every time I get in the car. The bag of food from the drive-through place can wait until I stop. The makeup? I’m perfect enough just as I am. I can yell at the kids later. Or pull over. No more digging for change. Diving for dropped sunglasses. Scrolling through playlists.

I can’t be that person.

I can’t let myself be that person. I have to help my children not be that person, the killer. Someone that kills another human being, by accident, but through their own fault or failure to prevent, which, in the end, is the same difference. One may hurt the killer’s soul more than the other, though, in the years of bitter regret that follow.

No more. I won’t be that Sunday driver.

As a bicyclist, I am terrified. I know I can do everything right on my beloved pink Trek Pilot WSD and still die. As the wife of an avid bicyclist, I am freakin’ scared out of my mind. I can’t keep him from riding. It’s his favorite thing in the world besides the offspring and me. He’s actually been hit by not one but two cars and also a horse (which isn’t as funny as it sounds), and he still thinks the risk is worth it. The lure of the wind in your face, the countryside flashing by, the exertion, the camaraderie: it’s all pretty intoxicating, I’ll admit. We strategize on how to ride safely. defensively, but, in the end, if a car veers straight at one of us, there is not much we can do.

If an angry trucker comes too close to see if he can make the cyclist fall, because the stupid bicyclist had the audacity to use his road, if the driver is honking his horn at the last second to increase the “surprise,” and we swerve under his wheels, there is nothing we can do. The first part has happened to us, but not the last. And more than once. And you know what’s odd? We are single file, on the shoulder riders, with every right to share the road, riding at optimal times so that we won’t disrupt traffic or inconvenience drivers. You would be too if you’d bounced off as many bad drivers as Eric has.

I’ll never be that person either. The angry driver who thinks it is funny to scare others “to death.”

There’s something else I won’t be: the bicyclist that runs stop signs or cuts in front of cars or weaves in and out of traffic. Or rides in high traffic areas, during busy times of the day. I won’t ride unsafely and make myself the haunting memory that never leaves a driver’s mind. I won’t be that Sunday driver, either, that Sunday bicyclist. Just like Eric wasn’t, when he was hit by a rusted brown Impala on a lonely St. Croix road, seven years ago.

Just like our friend wasn’t, on the Sunday he died.

My sadness for his wife and kids is tinged with a selfish fear of losing my own husband. My anger at the driver is laced with my anger at all the drivers who have endangered me or my loved ones. Yet my heart breaks pure and true for his survivors all the same. Their loss is great. Their pain unmeasurable.

May God ease their suffering. May we all learn and become better sharers of our planet in some small way as a result of this tragedy. May we love each other with a gentle grace that demands our full care and driving attention.

Would you join me in a vow to drive attentively, to remove the distractions, and to shake the “Sunday driver” complacency? If so, please share this post, spread the word, drive attentively, and Click Here. And thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Pamelot

 

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74 Responses to I won’t be that Sunday driver.

  1. Cheryl Jones says:

    Beautifully expressed.

  2. Betsy Bennett Weaver via Facebook says:

    Your article really made me think hard. I’m processing what you said and trying hard to put myself in your place. And as much as I try to be empathetic, I just can’t really imagine your constant fear and worry. But again, thank you for your perspective and the honest perspective you always lend.

  3. Eric Hutchins says:

    It is hard for me think about what happened to that rider and his family and put into words how I feel. Fortunately you do such a good job of that I dont have to. I am not sure how/why I did not suffer the same fate but I know that it has made me appreciate each day more than I might have otherwise.

    Your message to me in the post, and what I hope others hear, is that we ALL can do better, both as drivers and (for some of us), as riders too. We HAVE TO! The time has long since passed to stop allowing distractions to interfere with our driving. We need to quit assuming that we wont be the cause of a terrible accident, of the loss of life because of our lack of attention to the REAL demands of being behind the wheel (or handlebars). And we need to demand the same of all of those that we can influence.

    You can’t take it back. You dont get a do-over. We have to make a change.

    • Pamela says:

      Well said, love. I don’t know exactly what happened in the accident I wrote about last Sunday. I have an unbearable sadness for the burden this young person will carry as a result of that moment in time when everything changed. I can’t imagine if I lost you, nor can I imagine if one of our kids were the young driver on the surviving side of this accident. So much pain.

    • Pamela says:

      It’s interesting and yet makes sense to me that you are still angry at the driver of the first car that hit you, even though your injuries were not life-threatening, because it was a hit and run after they ran a red light. You were never angry about the accident 7 years ago, even though you nearly died, even though she broke the law, even though she wasn’t paying attention. I wanted to share what you told me, that you got something crucial and emotional: half an hour later you woke in a church parking lot (where the impact threw you — she was on her way to that church), to her anguished voice reciting the Lords Prayer and your first sight was her distraught face as she kneeled beside you. You got the chance to see her remorse, and you chose to forgive her, rather than dwell in anger. I was angry, though. I still am. She nearly took you from me. I get it that you aren’t mad, and I commend you for that positivity — I think it’s very healthy. It’s just different for me. And I think if the roles were reversed, we each would feel like the other.

  4. Betsy Bennett Weaver, thank you. You are always so kind and passionate, yet objective. I’m sitting here tonight, in full-on nauseating flashback, and mad at myself for every time I operate a car without remembering to respect its deadly power. I could have hit a million people and a million things, and it makes me breathless. I, b/c of Eric’s wrecks with cars, should have ample reason to never allow myself even the chance of endangering someone else, but I just can’t honestly say I live up to that. I have to do better. I have to better.

  5. Thanks Pamela…..keep on ranting about this so we can change things.

  6. Thanks for this post, Pamela. I don’t generally fly off and rant about too many things, but something absolutely must be done with today’s driving conditions. People are more distracted than ever before and every time I am out on the road I see people doing things that scare the crap out of me. There is no need to drive and text/talk/play with your phone, and I wish we could get that through people’s heads. I’ll guarantee that whatever is happening on social media or anything else can wait until you’ve arrived at your destination and parked your car.
    I’m going to be writing about this one day as well, but I challenge all of us cyclists to be the change they want to see in the world….and drop the cell phone while driving. We need to be the example and get out there and promote other people to do the same.

    Darryl
    Loving the Bike recently posted..#bikeschool: Your Ventoux

  7. Eric says:

    Some days when my back is REALLY bothering me I might be a tiny bit angry at her :).

    I do think though that there is a tremendous difference between making a “honest” mistake, and making conscious choice (running a red light, texting, etc) that results in what we are talking about.

  8. fantastically written. if i had any more tears to shed this week, i would be shedding them now. i use my phone way too much in the car (music, and handsfree conversations). from now on, though, i will set my music BEFORE i put the car in motion, and i will leave it there until I stop.
    I am sorry for the loss of your friend.
    Gene @boutdrz recently posted..#Wellnesschat Q and A 6-7-12

    • Pamela says:

      I think about things like GPS systems on dashboards, and yes, music choices. Ipods mounted in cars, scrolling through them, changing play lists. All things that take our eyes off the road. The body has a tendency to follow the eyes. The car follows the body. Ugh.

  9. Gil says:

    Pamela, thanks for this blog. I shared it with the bicyclers in my family and among my friends. Should also share it with all of my family and friends who operate automotive equipment! But that list is too long.
    Thanks,
    Gil

  10. Terri Sonoda says:

    So very sad, Pamela! Your story brought tears to my eyes, but also brought a bit of a wake-up call. I am very careful around bicyclists; however, I know I lose focus at times, too. A few months ago, I almost turned right into a runner on a familiar street near my house. I looked right, then left, but not right again, and there he was. It scared the shit out of me. That was also a wake-up call. I don’t use the phone at all in the car unless I’m parked…not just stopped. I don’t eat in the car like I used to. Vegas is notorious for car/pedestrian and car/bicyclists accidents and I don’t ever want to be part of that statistic. Take care out there people!
    Terri Sonoda recently posted..Monday Listicles – Ten things that make you go hmmm

    • Pamela says:

      Wake up calls are a gift. I am glad you had yours with no one harmed.

      There’s a lot of humans. A lot of cars. A lot of motorcylces, trucks, RVs, and bicycles. Take care out there, people, take care.

  11. Sandy Webb says:

    Wow! This made me cry as I know the hurt the family is experiencing right now. This is a must read for anyone who bikes or drives a vehicle…so basically everyone! Your words will make me be more careful for sure because I too have gotten distracted at times. You will never know, but this post may indeed save a life!
    Sandy Webb recently posted..The Return To "The Shack"

    • Pamela says:

      Yeah, I almost can’t stop bursting into tears every few minutes myself. I’m going to have to drag myself out of this place soon, but I almost feel like I owe it to them to hurt as much as they do, because I didn’t lose Eric. And I don’t even know his wife and kids, I only knew him. But I have survivor’s spouse guilt.

      We must love each other, care about each other, and respect the power of these enormous machines.
      Pamela recently posted..Putting it out there.

  12. Susie says:

    Best blog ever. I hope everyone who reads it will join you and put their phones away when driving (and makeup , etc)

  13. noob says:

    Sorry to hear, I can’t even imagine. It’s a well written message that more people need to read to avoid more sad weeks

  14. Debbie says:

    Amen! Well said Pam! We too lost a dear cyclist friend this year due to a person driving while texting. A precious life taken for no reason.

  15. Stasha says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. I am always in shock how absurd loss of life in accidents is.

  16. Betsy Bennett Weaver via Facebook says:

    Yeah, part of my frustration with ME is that I heard of a mom who was texting and crashed her car, killing one of her children. That stopped me for about 6 months, but then I gradually got lax and voila. Here I am again. I’m so mad at myself and thankful that I haven’t hurt anyone. I guess that’s what’s got me feeling so bad for this 20 year old kid. If I, a 47 year old mother of 4, can screw up then SURELY a 20 year old is gonna screw up WORSE. But I could SO easily be in his shoes. Thank you for admitting that you also have gotten lax at times. I want us BOTH to do better.
    You know what I’m thinking about doing? Writing on a flashcard “I won’t be THAT Sunday driver” and taping it to my dash.

  17. Oh Betsy Bennett Weaver, I know, I know! Me too. I had my phone in my console today, and I kept feeling this stupid magnetic pull. I think I’ll have to put it in the trunk. And tape “I won’t be THAT Sunday driver” to my dash, too!

  18. Eric says:

    I see a bumper sticker campaign, I am not kidding. A bumper sticker that says, “I wont be that Sunday Driver”. We could make them and give them away on SkipJack, or sell them at cost or whatever.

    • Pamela says:

      I’m working on them today — I’ll have one for the dash and one for the bumper. We can have them printed and ready to distribute in a week.

  19. Eric Hutchins via Facebook says:

    This is wonderful idea, I am thinking we should start a bumper sticker campaign, we could make them and give them away on SkipJack, and talk to Darryl Kotyk and maybe he could do the same in Austin.

  20. Betsy Bennett Weaver via Facebook says:

    Oh YEAH, NOW we’re talking! Something to put RIGHT on your dashboard!

  21. Betsy Bennett Weaver via Facebook says:

    I can work on getting them out here in Amarillo.

  22. Eric Hutchins via Facebook says:

    Yes, one size for people to put on their dash, another for the bumper to remind others.

  23. Sara says:

    We can all do better.

  24. RBV says:

    Please take a second to read this….whether you are a cyclist or just a driver, this applies to you! In the 8 years we have lived in Amarillo this is the 3rd person we have known to be killed on a bike by a car…..

  25. Roxie says:

    This article says everything I feel!! I am heart broken for this wonderful family and GREATLY fear I will feel this pain some day. My husband rides his bike to and from work nearly everyday. He has in his mind that as long as he is a good rider and alert he will be fine……………

    • Pamela says:

      I will pray for your husband (and mine). And I will drive as safely as I can, because I don’t want to be the one that hits him due to my inattentiveness.

  26. MM says:

    Lives are at stake. Maybe a life you care about…

  27. Jeff says:

    Well said Pam, lots to be mindful of.

  28. Forrest says:

    Scary stuff! So sorry this has happened! Rayne and I have both been hit by cars in Austin. People don’t realize the tremendous power they wield when operating a motor vehicle…Thanks for the gentle reminder..We all should switch off the auto-pilot like driving and be more aware of others in our daily lives..

  29. Lisa says:

    Pam, I love this. People have forgotten that driving is a huge exercise in multitasking all by itself. No reason to add cell phone activities into what an already highly complex process.

  30. Norma says:

    Excellent post. For many years my bike was my primary transportation (in Amarillo) and in the few years before I moved away I walked back and forth to work everyday and used my bike for as many errands as possible. I can tell you for a fact that most drivers I encountered never saw me. I would say 90% were looking at phones, but even those that weren’t rarely looked at me. It rattled me enough that when I did drive, I gripped the steering wheel with both hands and looked around compulsively for fear of hitting something. I don’t own a car anymore, but when I do rent one, I still drive that way. I refuse to be a distracted driver and I wholeheartedly support any campaign that convinces others to be alert.

    I’m sorry for the loss of your friends.

    • Pamela says:

      Norma: YES, I feel that same fear, that I will be the one that loses focus and hurts someone with my giant machine. Thank you for sharing!

  31. Bill Dorman says:

    A friend of mine who I sit on the YMCA board with was out for a daily ride with friends. A car pulled in front of him and he hit it at full speed leading with his head. He didn’t die, but he just now got back home almost a quadriplegic and lost his right eye.

    It was a bad intersection and both my friend and the driver were probably at fault, but people in cars really need to be aware of their surroundings. We all know there are already too many distractions.

    I am sorry to hear of this very unfortunate incident; thanks for sharing.
    Bill Dorman recently posted..How much is too much social?

    • Pamela says:

      Bill, what a wrenching story. Thanks for sharing. Yes, it is about awareness. And he in the big vehicle will never forget it if he hurts someone, even on accident.

  32. ted says:

    Very well said and a reminder to one and all to do the same. As a survivor of a tragic motorcycle accident where I lost my business partner, I can say the same thing about motorcyclist. We are not always loved on the road.

  33. flower says:

    I can see your point in all of your blog but I think the person driving didn’t drive away uninjured. That young person will have that image in their mind until they die.

    You are right when we get those keys and start that car we take on a responsibility.

    We were driving back from New Mexico this weekend and there were motorcyclist besides us without helmets and I just can’t phantom the idea how people can not see other people in the other lane or miss the fact there are a car length of a motorcycle in the other lane or a cyclist going 14+/- mph heading towards you or away from you.

    We also pulled on the side of the road and noticed not one car moved over in the other lane they stayed in the lane beside us and was going the speed limit (70) but truckers moved over. Where is the courtesy in moving over? What would have happened if I or my husband opened our door as the car passed us or that car moved over just slightly? We would be in heaven today.

    I am not for or against texting and driving but I think its more then that I think its everything in the car. I just think anything can distract us and yes it is a loss for everyone involved in any accident. Everyone looses a friend and a loved one even the person that hits the other person.

    Yes, you may say that you won’t be that person but society has taught us about distractions. There are billboards on the side of the road, buildings, cars with crazy bumper stickers, animals that run out in the road.

    I have told my children when driving what we must concentrate on and I can’t look in the back seat when I am driving, but they can talk to me and I will listen and can talk back just can’t turn my head when I talk to them.

    I did ride my bike as well until one of my friends was killed and now I ride a stationary bike at the town club. I did ride at the 24 hours in the canyon and ride of silence. My boys are getting to where they ride as well and I know I will have to eventually get out and ride with them and when this time comes I will.

    • Pamela says:

      I agree that the driver will carry a haunting image and pain that will never stop.

      The campaign we are launching will be for attentive driving. I so so so agree it is about ALL distractions that get in the way of safety, not just texting. Technology has just provided us with many tempting distractions.

  34. Sabine says:

    These accidents are always strange… I have never understood the thing that you could loose you life just because jerk who cannot drive or is all-a-drunk…

  35. Sheri says:

    I keep preachin to my daughter!!! Called and told her about this happening.

  36. Mandie says:

    This is awesome!

    • Pamela says:

      Thank you. I hope some people will take it to heart and pledge with me to change our behavior. We could save lives, including our own.

  37. I like that you pointed out that you won’t be that Sunday driver on your bike also. Living downtown has given me a new appreciation of bike riding but I can’t stand seeing bicyclists riding in the middle of the road and running stop signs. That is taking the pedestrian/cyclist right of way to an extreme and dangerous level. As one driving instructor taught us – “you can be dead right”. And what good does that do anyone?
    rebecca nolen recently posted..The Carrot Lobby

    • Pamela says:

      Yes! And if I as a bicyclist by my unsafe actions end up dead, I am not only dead, but I will haunt the driver that hit me forever. That’s incredibly unfair of me to take “right of way” to that extreme. And, bicyclists are bound by the traffic laws. I want to be sure that readers know I am separating this issue from the facts surrounding the death of my friend, as he was following the law, and riding safely and courteously, according to eye witness accounts. I want to be the kind of bicyclist he was, and that my husband was (and is).

  38. I have been bike commuting to work everyday and it has been eye opening. I now worry for my cycling friends and myself. Last year a cyclist here was killed by a runner who switched directions in front of him. Riding a bike can be a dangerous thing!
    Julie (@MomCycFan) recently posted..Happy Birthday Sarah!

    • Pamela says:

      Yes, it can. I was almost hit by a car while running last year, when I was crossing a street at a cross walk with the cross light. It was terrifying.

  39. Alica Hovell says:

    I’m sorry to read this, we should be more careful on the roads because we don’t know what will happen. Prevention is better than cure.
    Alica Hovell recently posted..http://www.maxpersuasion.com.http://maxpersuasion.com

  40. Laura says:

    That’s why I always look around twice, sometimes it isn’t your fault if an accident happens to you. But if you are always careful, your chances are better to avoid these kind of unwanted incidents.
    Laura recently posted..Verewigen den Sonnenuntergang

  41. Melissa says:

    What a great post Pam! We have had so many deaths hit our family this year, from close family members to people we have known for a lifetime. It should give us perspective and this helps do that for everyone reading.

  42. Hi Pamela – nice post. A good friend “liked” your link and the title caught my attention since I, myself, cycle. Turns out that the cyclist you were referring to was my friend. His death really shook up the community…both as a whole and as cyclists. JT was a good man and my heart goes out to his sweet wife and kids. Don’t know if you knew this, but JT was to have participated in the Coeur d’Alene Iron Man this past weekend. Deaths never come at a good time, but the fact that he died one week after his father-in-law, one week before fathers’ day and 2 weeks before his Iron Man just….well, SUCKS!! Anyway, it was a nice post and wake up call that we all can learn from. I also read your Bio…you’re witty. I like that. Made me really LOL when you said you are a recovering employment attorney….I’m a recovering med mal defense paralegal!!

    • Pamela says:

      Angela — thank you for stopping by. Nice to meet someone else in “recovery.”

      The whole situation is tragic re JT. It just breaks my heart.

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