Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

A note about distracted drivers April 2, 2013

Red means STOP, people.

Red means STOP.


My apologies for the delay in sending this thank you note. But sometimes it takes awhile for these things to sink in, to understand the gravity of the situation and what may have been.

For me, it was my husband stating, “He could have taken any one of us out.”

That comment slapped me like a sub-zero January morning. Rarely does Randy express such a strong opinion.

But he was right to assess just how bad this could have been—had I not glimpsed the white pick-up truck from the corner of my eye and yelled for my husband to stop, just as our 1995 Chrysler Concorde entered the intersection.

They always say it happens in an instant. How true. The glimpse of white. The realization that the truck was not slowing to stop for the red light on the four-lane. The thought formulating into words. The warning spewed from my lips. The foot to brake. The truck whizzing past, never slowing. The driver, totally clueless.

You, dearest angel, I am convinced, were hovering at Minnesota Highways 60 and 21, one of the busiest intersections in Faribault, around 10:30 p.m. Thursday. There is no other explanation. I could easily have been looking the other way, not spoken soon enough. My husband could have delayed his reaction.

Had Randy not stopped when he did, the truck would have t-boned our car, a direct hit to the driver’s side. I don’t even want to think about the serious injuries that would have been inflicted upon my loved ones, including our 19-year-old son sitting behind his dad and just home from Fargo for Easter.

I do not go through life unnecessarily pondering the “what ifs.” But sometimes particular events stick with you for a few days as reminders of how life truly can change, just like that. I suppose this incident lingers even more given my future son-in-law’s car was totaled by a red light runner in St. Paul several months ago.

My family’s near-collision Thursday evening was reinforced two days later by two drivers, both distracted by cell phones, who pulled out in front of us. One driver stopped just in time. The other, a woman in a van, head bent either texting or dialing, paused at a stop sign and drove straight into our path, not even noticing our approaching van.

To be honest, it scares the hell out of me sometimes how distracted and clueless many drivers are today.

My apologies, dear guardian angel, for referencing my concern with that overused phrase. But sometimes even writers struggle to define stupidity.


© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling