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The Real Cost of Distracted Driving

Fifteen years ago, on a trip to the mall, my daughter and I were hit at the crosswalk by a distracted driver who was under the influence of prescription drugs that warned against operating a motor vehicle.

At one end of the crosswalk, a group of pedestrians waited, hesitant to cross. An SUV had stopped several feet from the yield sign, music blaring, while the driver fixed her hair. The SUV driver looked up and waived everyone to cross the street. As we began to cross, my daughter’s shoe came off. I shouted out to the driver and raised my hand up as I grabbed her shoe.

As I bent down to carry my daughter the rest of the way, I heard a woman scream. I stood up and saw the SUV coming full speed at me, inches away from my body. Everything happened so quick. I didn’t have time to react. I held onto her SUV with every strength that I had and repeatedly hit the hood to keep myself from sliding under her car. Finally, I got her to stop. Frantically, I started looking for my daughter, but I couldn’t see her anywhere. I started yelling hysterically, asking where my daughter was, No one responded, everyone was in shock.

After a moment of silence, I heard my daughter struggling to breathe beneath the car. I instantly ran from the hood to the side of the car and pulled my daughter out from underneath the SUV. Her body was severely injured. I held her tight and screamed for help. I thought I was going to lose her as I watched her struggle to breathe. An officer came to our aide from the mall nearby until the ambulance came to take her to Children’s National Hospital. My daughter fell into a coma. Doctors said we had a 24-hour window to know if she would survive or not.

My daughter pulled through the night and had a long recovery from the head-on collision. She was 3 years old when the SUV hit her, and now she is 18. She was too young to remember this horrific day, but I hold these memories because both of our lives could have been taken from a distracted driver. There are others who have fallen victim to distracted drivers, whose lives were lost, or who sustained serious or life-threatening injuries as a result of a preventable accident.

Are you a distracted driver? Do you know someone who has been distracted while driving? I know that I have witnessed friends and close loved ones distracted by their phones and live streaming on social media while driving.

What is distracted driving? It refers to the act of driving while engaging in other activities which distract the driver’s attention away from the road. Distractions are shown to compromise the safety of the driver, passengers, pedestrians, and people in other vehicles.
Based on the 2019 driving statistics:

  • The pressure to respond to work-related messages while driving is common among adults aged 18 to 34 (37% of respondents compared to 25% of the national average among all age groups)
  • Parents with young children were more likely to be distracted while driving (87%) than were adults with no small children (74%).
  • Taking photos while driving was admitted by one in three female drivers.

The same study also uncovered differences between Android and iPhone users’ distracted driving behavior:

  • Claiming they never get distracted while driving: 23% of Android users, 16% of iPhone users and 38% of users of other mobile operating systems make this claim
  • Streaming and social media use is more than twice as likely from iPhone and Apple Carplay users than Android users. Admitting they watch YouTube videos: 10% of iPhone users and 4% of Android users admitted to this distracted driving habit

What does this mean? Drivers are not paying attention, additional driving education, training and awareness is needed. Educate yourself on distracted driving and save lives. Click here to learn more about defensive driving awareness.

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Protect the Ecosystem During Traveling – Some Thoughts after Visiting Hawaii

The ecosystem on a small island can be unstable and easily disturbed, especially if the island that is a long distance away from the mainland. I wrote about Iceland’s ecosystem approximately two years ago (click here to read), Iceland must sustain on its own by using Geothermal energy to produce heat. The country’s geothermal resources come from the dynamic volcano, and several major geothermal power plants produce 30% of the country’s electricity. However, the Hawaiian Islands are a different story. On a trip to Hawaii, I learned about their environmental protection laws and the ecosystem.

The Hawaiian Islands are in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it is far away from the mainland of the United States. Unlike Iceland, Hawaii’s climate is warm and wet, not as brutally cold as Iceland. Because of the mild weather and rich soil, plants such as bananas, pineapples, mangos, and some vegetables are prosperous in some part of those islands. Food resources are not a problem for people on these islands. Compared to Iceland, Hawaii attracts about nine million visitors last year while Iceland had about two million.

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https://fishingbooker.com/blog/which-hawaiian-island-is-the-best-for-you/

So, what did Hawaii do to protect their environment and ecosystem?

The National Park Rangers at Big Island created a legend about the fiery volcano goddess would punish people that took the volcano rocks away to prevent visitors from keeping them as “souvenirs”.

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https://www.haleakalamaui.com/

One of the most important ecosystems in Hawaii is the marine life around the islands. They have such beautiful and abundant marine life in the middle of Pacific, take the Hanauma Bay as an example:

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https://bestof-hawaii.com/tours/north-shore-and-hanauma-bay-in-a-day/

The Bay was formed million years ago by the erupt of an active volcano, water slowly corrosion the outside boundary and flow inside, coral reef growing on those rich volcano rock sediments and make Hanauma Bay a perfect snorkeling area. In addition, the natural shaped topography protected coral reef in this bay and current so it’s safe to swim in it. Due to the number of visitors that come to the bay every day, the park is closed on Tuesday to give the natural elements time to recover.

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Hawaii’s coral reef is facing increasing challenges these years because of runoff soil, chemicals, and human’s contact. People who visit Hanauma Bay must use reef-safe sunscreen and no bug spray is allowed. Visitors have to watch an educational video about the ecosystem at Hanauma Bay, including warnings and tips for snorkeling.

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The rainforests also play an important role in Hawaii’s fragile environment, especially for the native animals. When you get off the plane in Hawaii, you have to submit a customs card that states all your belongs that might disturb the environment, such as other vegetation and live animals. Snakes are banned on the islands!

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I was surprised that I did not get a single mosquito bite on this trip. After talking to the hotel receptionist, we learned that this island is really doing a good job with mosquito control by using enclosed trash cans and keeping the coast clean. The fine is expensive for people who are caught throwing trash in the wrong place.

On this trip, I could tell how hard Hawaiians are working to protect their fragile ecosystem and the beautiful environment. As a visitor, I do want to help in this process, because we are trying to protect the beautiful ecosystem for future generations to enjoy.

Mei Fang, who is an urban planner with a strong passion for urban and landscape design, she also enjoys looking for the variety of culture inside of the city.

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Life Happens

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At some point in our careers, we face disruptions in our personal lives that can rock our world. Some life changes can be happy, while others can take our breath away. Be it divorce, personal health, the loss of a loved one or in my personal case, the death of a child, these challenges can make time stand still. It was the recent loss of my beautiful son, Adam Lamar Russell, that paused everything around me.

Many of us are taught to put up an invisible shield that separates our work and home life, but it seems impossible because many of our waking hours are spent at work. Those lines often blur. As a pregnant woman it really gets hard because people have seen us for months as our belly gets bigger, our walk gets a little different, and we prepare to take some extended time from our work family.  I’ve found that when we experience something so tragic, it can be particularly hard returning to the office for a few reasons. People want to avoid us because they don’t know what to say or we have to brace ourselves for the congratulatory remarks from people who have no clue about what we went through. It’s a tough position.

No matter the life situation, how do we show up fully present when our heart and mind are consumed? I am no psychologist, but I don’t think we can. I think that many times when life hits us hard, we find ourselves just pushing through. Everything is a process and we have to honor and work through the process. It’s not something that goes by a prescribed man-made clock – bereavement leave, maternity leave, or some other form of Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). And this only speaks to those who have the luxury of extended time away.

What I am learning bit by bit is to be gracious with others as they maneuver around me, accept that giving my best can change each day and that there really isn’t a shield. Life is life and our work is a part of the life we are building. Although we sometimes set boundaries by not talking about home at work or vice versa, it’s difficult to not let the emotion seep from one to the other. We aren’t robots but we can persevere through some of life’s most challenging times by honoring the experience and doing what we need to return to some sense of normalcy in our lives.

P.S. I have found journaling to be helpful. What do you do when life hits you hard?

Chanceé Lundy Russell is the Co-Founder of Nspiregreen LLC a community, multimodal, and environmental planning firm based in Washington, DC. The Selma, Alabama native received her BS in Environmental Science from Alabama A&M University and her MS in Civil Engineering from Florida State University. She is passionate about environmental justice issues and works to create healthy, livable communities for all.





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