(Editor's Note: It was a year ago at this time that a freak accident took the life of a dear friend. It was a case of distracted driving. With Gabe in mind, we are providing again a column that appeared a few days after the accident.)
So you think of yourself as a conscientious motorist. You know you are, because you remain alert behind the wheel, and you never do anything that could qualify you as a distracted driver.
This column is to remind you that even though you are cautious and careful--always expecting the unexpected--you can still be a victim of your own distracted driving. Such was the case for a lady in Key West Wednesday morning.
She was driving a school bus which suddenly veered into the path of an oncoming moped. The collision was head-on, killing the rider, Gabe Mardones. It was ruled an accident, and no charges were filed.
That's because it was a freak accident--a case of distracted driving that could happen to anyone. Apparently, a sudden disturbance among the 51 students aboard the bus startled the driver for just the second or two that it took for the crash to occur.
My heart goes out to the driver, who had a clean driving record, and no disciplinary history, during 16 years as a school bus operator. I can only imagine what she must be going through, and I do feel for her, although I don't know her.
I did know the victim, in a very special way, and like many people who knew Gabe, his death hits me hard. In his 62 years of life, he helped a lot of people, including yours truly. I remember well his words of encouragement.
A couple of years ago, I spent a lot of time and did a lot of writing at Florida Keys Community College--a stone's throw from where the accident occurred Wednesday. Back then, both Gabe and I traveled College Road of a morning--he on his way home from his dusk 'til dawn shift, and me on my way to the library at FKCC. It was on that stretch of road where Gabe died
I look at distracted driving differently now. Like many things in life, there are times when it can happen to anyone--through no fault of their own.