Cell phone use while driving has tragically and irreversibly changed the life of this reader.
My 2 1/2-year-old daughter, Morgan Lee, was killed as a result of an auto accident that occurred on Nov. 2, 1999. My vehicle was hit broadside by a man who admitted that he did not stop at the stop sign because he was distracted while dialing his cellular phone. Cause of death -- blunt head trauma. He ran into the rear passenger door at 45 mph, right where Morgan was sitting. He received a total
of $50 in fines. I need to speak out on this issue. I cannot live
with what happened to my daughter. I was not aware prior to the
accident just how dangerous the roads have become with the saturation
of cell phones. I now know. I've discovered some outrageous
statistics. I am now just putting myself out there in the hopes of
creating public awareness. I am working with my local senator to get
pending legislation through. Please tell people what they can do to
help me fight for my daughter. Thank you. -- Patti Pena
TOM: Jeez, Patti. What a tragedy. Morgan Lee is gone, and your life
will never be the same. Nor will the life of the poor jerk who hit
you. He was probably just checking his voice mail, saying hello to
HIS kid or doing something he could have easily waited until later to
do. And now he's got to live with the knowledge that he killed a
2-year-old child. It's tragic all around.
RAY: And it's so obvious that it's wrong to drive and talk on the
phone at the same time. Yet most of us are so selfish that we'd
rather endanger the lives of innocent people than wait 20 minutes to
return a phone call.
TOM: There are several things people can do to help prevent more kids
from getting killed. First, you can stop talking on the phone while
you're driving. Start by changing your own behavior. If you want to
carry a phone in case of emergency, that's great. But for
non-emergencies, like "saying hi," "checking in" or making calls you
could just as easily make from your home, your office or a parking
lot, take our advice and "Drive Now, Talk Later."
RAY: Another thing you can do is help raise the consciousness of
those around you. We are offering free bumper stickers that say
"Drive Now, Talk Later." Just send a SASE (make sure it's "SA'd" and
"S'd") to Bumper Sticker, Car Talk Plaza, Box 3500, Cambridge, MA
02238. Allow a few weeks for our lackeys to catch up on their
TOM: And finally, you can write, phone and otherwise express your
support for legislation that restricts the use of cell phones while
driving. It's very much an uphill fight, because the cell-phone
industry is huge and powerful, and it is spending tons of money to
make sure nobody gets in its way. Plus, virtually every
self-important politician drives around talking on, what? A cell
phone. So it won't be easy.
RAY: But eventually, some politician's 2 1/2-year-old daughter will
be killed by a driver distracted on his or her cell phone. And then
your letters will get us over the top.
TOM: Again, our condolences, Patti. And we hope you'll see every
letter that gets written as a result of this column as an act of
kindness in memory of Morgan Lee. And don't give up, because you're
absolutely right to fight this stupidity. And in their hearts, even
the politicians and cell-phone executives know it.