ATTENTION DEFICIT: Airman had on ‘blinders’ before crash

Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany -- I’ll admit it. I’ve taken my eyes off the road to change the radio station, check my hair in the mirror or rummage around my purse for lip balm. I’ve seen others texting while driving or gawking at fender benders.

Most of us have read the statistics and heard the slogan “Distracted Driving Is Deadly Driving.” But in all honesty, I never thought it could happen to me.

I was wrong.

One of those very same everyday actions in the wrong moment changed my perspective.

I realize now that split-second of inattention to the road is like driving blind-folded.

On the morning of Feb. 19, 2014, it all started with the simple act of locating my military ID card.

I’d left my house with plenty of time to get to work, and my mind focused on the drive. But as I got closer to the gate at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, I grabbed my wallet out of my pocket to retrieve my ID, which
I needed to gain access to the base.

In the moment it took me to look down to ensure I had the right card,
I veered off the road.

My tires screeched as I slammed on the breaks trying to correct my direction. Traveling at just more than 40 mph, I narrowly missed oncoming traffic. I took out a deer-crossing sign and two road markers.

Then I hit a concrete barrier, and my car flipped … twice!

I don’t remember the first turn, but I knew I was upside down during the second when I could feel my weight being fully supported by my seat belt. I could hear the shattering of my windows and metal screeching on concrete. I finally came to a stop after my car fell into a ditch on the opposite side of the roadway.

Twenty seconds.

That’s all the time that elapsed from that split-second I diverted my eyes from the road to the chaotic crash ending.

My BMW was totaled. The caved-in roof served as a chilling reminder of how fortunate I’d been. The fact that I can even tell this story is a miracle that is not lost on me.

Somehow I walked away without a scratch, bump or bruise. I attribute most of this to German engineering, my seat belt and a lot of luck. But I’m very aware those three factors didn’t cancel out my careless actions.

I could have killed myself or someone else.

Beyond the shattered glass, bent metal, and the sirens of the police and ambulatory services, I knew I had to change the way I measured risks. I never want something like this to happen to me or anyone else again.

I can’t count on being this lucky a second time

Tips from a Survivor

  1. Have your ID card or relevant papers out of your pocket and easily accessible before you start your vehicle.
  2. Have a passenger change the radio station, deal with GPS or fish out an ID card.
  3. Your rearview mirror is not for doing make-up or grooming.
  4. Eating/drinking isn't a good idea while behind the wheel.
  5. Don't talk on the phone or text while diving.