3rd Place - Tristen Sharp

3Rd Place Tristen Sharp

On Wednesday evening, I met my mother at a local restaurant to eat dinner before heading off to church. Nothing was different, as my usual routine on Wednesday’s was always the same. After pulling into the church parking lot a little after 7:00 p.m., I placed my cell phone in hand and proceeded on to the crosswalk. As I looked both directions, I noticed a car approaching from my left. The car approaching stopped to make a left hand turn and I looked both ways one last time before proceeding into the intersection. I have no other memory of the chain of events that took place after that moment because I was struck by a car coming from the opposite direction. The injuries I sustained were critical with the most extreme being the injuries to my brain. My skull was removed in an attempt to save my life and I now lacked the memory to remember who I was. After extensive rehabilitation and re-learning many aspects of my life, I was now left with many unanswered questions. “ Did I not look both ways before I crossed that street? Was I not paying attention? How could he not see me?” The emotional toll of these unanswered questions would test me to the core. As I searched for answers to these very questions, the answers slowly came to light. Witnesses advised that I did look both ways, twice! My cell phone company verified that their was no activity on my cell phone. “ So, how did this happen?” My whole life was changed forever at age 16.

Some would say this is the story of a lifetime and a place where this story should end. However, it’s not. June 11th, 2017 was just another typical day. My friend and I had decided to go get ice cream at one of our favorite places. This is the moment where I have no memory of the chain of events that would occur next. A driver crossed the center median of the interstate and struck us head on with no warning. I was flown to a trauma center due to my injuries.

Upon waking up from another medically induced coma, I would now be labeled again as the girl with another Traumatic Brain Injury, two brain bleeds, a broken nose, and a fractured neck. As much as I tried to put my previous accident behind me, I am now undergoing rehabilitation to rebuild my life all over again. I could go on and on about all of the ways these two accidents have changed my life, but I choose not to dwell on these unfortunate circumstances and not let this world define me. Furthermore, I can only hope that one day the individuals that cause these tragic accidents will start understanding that they must live with the decisions and choices that they make, but more importantly, they further realize that I have to live with their decisions too.

Distracted driving causes numerous accidents, injuries and oftentimes fatalities throughout the world. Families lives are turned upside down and some never get the chance to return back to the life they previously lived. We, as a society must stop operating under a mindset that “ This will never happen to me.”, or “ It doesn’t hurt anything.” Law enforcement must become more proactive against cell phone use while driving and our criminal justice system must start imposing stiffer penalties for distracted driving in general.

While I may not have been the driver involved in either accident, I am still a driver myself. I owe an equal obligation to everyone around me, that I, myself, do my best to insure the safety of others. It is extremely important to have discussions with your friends and family about the effects of distracted driving and ways to reduce the accidents caused by this. I have created a Distracted Driving Plan for other individuals to use in discussions with their family in hopes of protecting the loved ones of others.

Oftentimes, we as individuals get so hung up in our busy lives that time gets away from us. We find ourselves thinking about multiple things while we are heading somewhere else. Little thought is given to the devastation that is caused by distracted driving. As a person living with the injuries sustained in an auto accident, I can assure you that the struggles I have had to overcome has been life changing. In a split second, you can easily become a victim, or a defendant.

Distracted Driving Plan

  • We will not operate a vehicle in an unsafe manner.
  • We will obey all driving laws in the manner in which they are implemented for.
  • We will further educate our friends and family about the effects of distracted driving.
  • We will always look twice, and cross once to ensure our safety and the safety of others while operating a vehicle or as a pedestrian.
  • We will not talk or text on a cell phone while driving.
  • We will pay attention to our surroundings.