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Love, Life and a Call Worth Missing

ERIE Agent's near-fatal crash inspires her to promote safety

December 15, 2010
By Rachel Adelson

Distracted drivingKim Mosby, ERIE Agent and devoted mom, reached for her ringing cell phone while driving home in a snowstorm in January 2008. The next thing she knew, she was lying on the side of the road. Literally shattered, she wasn’t expected to live through the night.

Thankfully, she made it to morning—and through the long, grueling rehab that followed. Today she’s gearing up to enjoy the holidays, grateful for her family, friends, work and sheer survival.

“I am blessed to still be in this world, to be able to be a wife and a mother and to see my children grow,” she says. The experience touched her and her family deeply and turned her into an ardent proponent of safe driving.

How it happened
“I’d heard about the dangers of distraction, but it just had never seemed like a distraction to talk on the phone in the car,” explains Mosby, an Agent with Partners Insurance in East Alton, Ill.

Like most multi-taskers, she thought she could handle it. That is, until she picked up the phone, read the caller’s name, started to say hello and lost control of the car in a deep icy skid.

The resulting crash left her with a shattered pelvis, collapsed lung, multiple broken bones in both her back and right leg, and five post-accident days wiped from memory. Her three children—who were home at the time—were terrified. Her husband “didn’t breathe” until he saw her in the emergency room. She spent a month in the hospital and intensive rehab, followed by six months without walking.

And what was the call that went unanswered? A casual message that her son would not have basketball practice that night due to the weather. “It could have waited until I got home,” the ERIE Agent ruefully admits.

Mosby, 41, says that by answering the phone, she was as bad as any easily-distracted teen driver. She’s since become an expert on distraction’s deadly interaction with the teenage brain (and her own).

“Teens crave technology,” she explains. “Their brains are developing very rapidly and they need constant sensory arousal. They aren’t able to safely multitask. None of us are.”

As a result of her experience, Mosby is deeply concerned when she sees young drivers with “puppies on their laps, on the phone, music blaring.” She knows they aren’t concentrating on driving.


Kim Mosby (left) and family pose for their family portrait for Christmas 2010.

 

A Lesson Learned and Now Taught
Given what happened, Mosby decided to turn the lessons from her fateful maneuver into something positive. She is passionately committed to safer teen driving.

Her own crash revealed the broader devastation of distracted driving. “As horrible as it was for me, it was worse for my kids,” she recalls. “My children are still haunted by that day.” Yet, her older two, both boys, rose to the challenge of cleaning, cooking and laundry. They also helped their father, Herb, take care of Kim.

Now an enlightened mom, she is training the next generation of Mosby drivers: “I tell my kids that when they text me and I don’t answer, don’t keep trying.” And she channels her experience into constructive action. “I have to do this for myself, for my son, who is starting to drive, and my community,” she says.

Mosby has become an advisor with ERIE’s Lookin’ Out program at her own kids’ Roxana High School. She mentors nearly two dozen students who are conducting a year of special programs to boost driving safety. She has also helped the student committee apply for and obtain a $2,000 grant from ERIE to support these programs, which started with an Oct. 22nd seatbelt check.

For Halloween, the group handed out Boo Grams at school with candy and safe-driving messages (Drive Sober! Don’t Text and Drive!). This month, the group is sponsoring Lookin’ Out Night at the opening home basketball game, handing out literature and gear with safety messages. Next year, the Valentine’s Day Dance will sway to a safety theme. March will bring another seatbelt check. April will feature a community event at which members of the senior class can run an obstacle course while texting and wearing Fatal Vision goggles that mimic driving while impaired.

The year’s programs will end with a mock crash during prom week, with police, EMTs, a reckless student “driver” carted off to jail, and a student “corpse” taken to the morgue. “We’re hoping for shock value,” says Mosby.

Finally, the school Lookin’ Out group wants to sponsor stepping stones with safety messages that lead to the athletic field.

The ERIE Agent says that volunteering helps her to process the trauma of her accident, injuries and new limitations. It takes her mind off the fatigue, the pain in her right hip and leg, and the metal hardware that holds her together.  

Mosby’s core message to today’s new drivers: “Learn from me. I could have lost my leg; I could have lost my life. Crashes can change our lives forever. Slow down. So what, you’ll be late. It’s not worth going through what I did.

“And I want kids to know,” she adds, “it’s not just themselves they have to worry about. I would have felt horrible if I had hurt someone else.”

Sadder but wiser, she now parks her cell phone and purse out of sight and out of reach, on the rear seat or rear floor, or in the glove compartment.

As Mosby reflects on her near-miraculous survival, she says, “I wasn’t supposed to be here, so maybe this is why I’m still here. I will do my absolute best to get the message across to drive safe, drive defensively, eliminate distractions, and never drink and drive. I will say it as long as teens will listen.”


Rachel Adelson writes about health and safety through her Toronto-area Live Wire Communications.