Distracted driving affects us all

Life can change in a matter of a second. Just ask Tom and Wendy Goeltz of Hudson. On February 29th, 2016, their young, beautiful and full of life daughter, Megan Goeltz was tragically killed in an auto accident. To make matters worse, it could have and should have been prevented. Distracted driving due to a cell phone caused it. All too often, we sit across from the table with families that are planning funerals for loved ones that were needlessly killed by distracted driving.  

Unless you are a computer, you can’t multitask. You may be good enough to do several things at once, but the thought that you can drive effectively doing two things at once is flat out wrong. In a society that brags about how busy we are, or how many things we have going on, we are in a constant state of distraction.  And guess what, accidents caused by distracted driving doesn’t just happen to ‘other people’. It happens to all of us! How many times have you been driving when a semi or vehicle hit the rumble strips on the shoulder of the freeway? Pretty much all the time, right? Well, count your blessings; they could have veered into you instead. Distracted driving only takes a second and kills others who are simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.    

Don’t text and drive. You’ve likely heard that warning before, and with good reason. Nationwide, 3,166 people were killed in 2019 while hundreds of thousands more were injured in distracted-driving accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although texting ranks right up there, changing the station on the radio, trying to type in an address into a navigation app, putting on lipstick, or trying to dip those chicken fingers in BBQ sauce are other frequent excuses for being distracted while driving. State Laws forbidding the use of cell phones while driving vary from state to state. Tom and Wendy Goeltz have made it their mission to educate others of the overwhelming pain that Megan’s senseless death has caused them. They lobbied and were able to create laws in Minnesota making it illegal to use a wireless device when the vehicle is moving or in traffic.

The O’Connell Family Funeral Home has seen first hand the devastation distracted driving brings families. As a result, a policy has been created with the help of our partners, Federated Insurance and the National Funeral Directors Association. Our new program is called “Paisley’s Policy; which forbids the use of wireless devices in any funeral home vehicles. Paisley is the beautiful daughter of Megan who now only has pictures and stories to remember her mom by.

But our efforts are not going to stop with our staff. It will be extended to you, the community. By the end of the day, Americans will have sent 6 billion text messages! Did you know that using a cell phone while driving, whether it is hand-held or hands-free, delays a driver’s reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08 percent? Would you like to join our mission and crusade? Do you have a child that would benefit from seeing a powerful video called “In The Blink Of An Eye” that illustrates how devastating distracted driving can be? Will you sign a pledge showing your commitment to distracted driving? For those of you who recognize Lent, instead of giving up something, how about committing to practice attentive driving? We want to see you help us promote this great program, we don’t want to sit across from you making funeral arrangements.  

by Mike O’Connell 

3 Responses

  1. Thank you, Mike, for calling attention and asking for commitment on this important issue. Four years later, and the impact of Megan’s death still ripples every day across the lives and hearts of those who love her. One moment of distraction took the joyful presence of this beautiful momma, daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend from those who will always love and miss her. Confidence that Megan is with Jesus in Heaven and they will be with her again is very real comfort – and honoring Megan’s life with tireless efforts to educate drivers and prevent one other family from such tragic grief helps bring meaning into such senseless tragedy. Megan’s family’s work is to be greatly admired, and impact of Megan’s life will continue to ripple across lives spared and wisdom gained because of their tireless efforts. My pledge: no texting while driving. With sympathy and admiration, Kathleen Helgeson

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