There’s no question that when you’re not paying attention to the road, the route can quickly take a deadly turn. Advancements in the engineering of cars means vehicles are now geared towards safety and accident survival, yet it seems that more advanced technology can lead to us taking a few steps backwards in terms of common sense. The latest innovations in technology have provided us with more distractions than ever, and a consequent greater propensity for accidents. According to the United States Center for Disease Control, there are three types of distractions; visual (taking eyes off the road), manual (taking hands off the wheel), and cognitive (taking the mind off of driving). It just so happens that texting and posting online causes almost all three of these distractions. This fatal combination – texting, posting online, and driving – is now one of the leading causes of teen deaths on the road.
Relatively new laws ban cellphone use while driving in most countries, in an attempt to make the roads a little safer. But as with all laws, not everyone obeys them, leaving the roads vulnerable to distracted drivers. Since the internet has been integrated into our portable devices, we now have the tempting ability to check email, Facebook and Twitter at any time – whether stuck in traffic or driving 70 miles per hour on the freeway. This newly accessible world means new dangers, and according to the website Texting and Driving Safety, 23% of road collisions are now due to cell phones.
And so, we now exist in a world where distractions from our cell phones have cost many people their lives. From these tragedies have been born movements to advocate for stricter laws on road safety. One of the most fascinating results of these movements has been the choice to make public the final conversations of the injured or deceased. Here, we’ve compiled a list of five final text messages and online posts that led to horrific, fatal accidents. Given the 5 tragic stories that follow, we can’t help but feel that all of these messages could have waited…
5. Mariah West – “Where u at.” (2009)
Mariah West died at the young age of 18, in 2009, on the day before her high school graduation. She was replying to a text message from a friend asking, “Where u at.” West was on her way to watch her friend play in a baseball game. While West was responding to the message, her car hit a bridge, skidded on its roof, and headed into oncoming traffic. West was partially ejected from the car and her skull was crushed. She survived eight days in the hospital before passing away. Her mother, Merry Dye, has since joined forces with AT&T in their “It Can Wait” campaign, sharing her daughter’s story to warn teens and others against texting and driving by reminding us that no phone call or text message is worth losing your life or taking away the life of another. West’s story was one of the earliest tragedies that first brought attention to the issue of texting and driving.
4. Taylor Sauer – “I can’t discuss this now. Driving and facebooking is not safe! Haha.” (2012)
This fatal message implies that 18-year old Taylor Sauer clearly knew the potentially dangerous consequences of commenting on a Facebook status update on January 14th, 2012. Sauer was on her way to her parents house in Idaho, driving from Utah State University’s Logan campus, and had been talking to a friend on Facebook about the Denver Broncos to pass the time during the 4 hour drive. Sauer was driving about 80 miles per hour when she slammed into the back of a tanker-truck that was going uphill at about 15 miles per hour.
3. Emily Brochu – “I love you and I’ll try to do what I can to make you happy” (2012)
On January 18th, 2012, 20-year old Emily Brochu was having a text conversation with her boyfriend, Mathieu Fortin, while she was driving her car. Moments after she sent that text, she slammed her car into the back of a tractor-trailer in Victoriaville, Quebec. Since her death, Brochu’s then-boyfriend Fortin has become an advocate for safety while driving and banning the use of cell phones while behind the wheel. He set up a Facebook page in memory of Bochu and uses the page to further his cause for cell phone safety. He has also made public the entire text message conversation (which was in French) so that people could understand the context of the conversation in correlation to the accident. Fortin hopes that if he shares Emily’s story, it may save the life of another.
2. Alexander Heit – “Sounds good my man, seeya soon, ill tw” (2013)
If this text looks unfinished to you, well, it’s because University of Northern Colorado student, Alexander Heit was in the middle of texting a friend when his car swerved into oncoming traffic. While the other car slowed down and tried to get out of the way, Heit jerked his wheel, lost control of his vehicle, and rolled his car off the road on April 3rd, 2013. His parents made the difficult decision of posting a picture of the last text message on his phone, hoping to remind people the dire consequences of writing a text while on the road. Heit was only 22-years old at the time of his death, and according to friends and family, had a bright future ahead of him.
1. Courtney Ann Sanford – “The happy song makes me HAPPY” (2014)
This most recent tragedy occurred on April 24th, 2014, and the tragedy and irony has attracted the attention of the worldwide media. 32-year old Courtney Ann Sanford was taking selfies and she had posted a Facebook status about Pharrell’s hit song “Happy” at 8:33am. At that time, her car crossed the highway’s median, crashed into a truck in High Point, North Carolina and caught on fire. Police matched the timestamp of her post on Facebook with the 911 call that occurred at 8:34am, and while it couldn’t be confirmed that the accident had been caused by distracted driving from posting on the Internet, it was confirmed there was a further text message initiated just before the accident. The truck Sanford hit crashed into a tree, but the 73-year old driver was uninjured. Sanford was on her way to her third day of work at her new job as a respiratory therapist. A schoolteacher friend of Sanford has appealed to this tragedy to teach her middle school students the dangers of distracted driving, emphasising that lives can be lost from a single irresponsible moment.