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Editorial: Too close to home

Cellphone use while driving is a serious problem.
Cellphone use while driving is a serious problem.

If you wanted to get to the small town of Concan, Texas from Charlottetown, P.E.I., you could count on being on the road for at least 41 hours, punching in some 4,367.2 kilometres in all, a good chunk of it on I-81 south.

It’s hard to estimate how many verses of “Ninety-nine Bottles of Beer on the Wall” you would have to sing, or how many times the kids would ask, “Are we there yet?”

From Sydney, Cape Breton? Forty-four hours and 4,674.2 km. Halifax? A mere 41 hours, and 4,462.4 km.

It’s a whopping 5,757.8 kilometres from St. John’s to Concan — 63 straight hours of driving, though it’s not clear exactly how the kilometre-counters take the Cabot Strait crossing into account in their totals.

But at the same time, there’s something about the small, unincorporated community that is frighteningly close.

Part of the Texas hill country, Concan is noted for spring birdwatching, and for the nearby Frio bat cave, where you can watch scores of bats head out for their evening forage. There’s spring break inner tube trips down the Frio River, a March music festival — today, it’s supposed to be 30 degrees and sunny, with not one day this week below 23 degrees, sunny or mostly sunny all week and not a speck of rain. Sounds a long way from the cold and wet of an Atlantic provinces spring.

But it isn’t. Not really.

Last Wednesday, 20-year-old Jack Dillon Young of Leakey, Texas, was driving a pickup truck that hit a church minibus head-on near Concan. The crash killed 13 people in the minibus, all members of the First Baptist Church of New Braunfels, Texas, who were coming back from a three-day retreat at the Alto Frio Baptist Encampment in Leakey.

Fifty-five-year-old Jody Kuchler and his girlfriend had been following the truck as it drove erratically, crossing back and forth over the centre line on the two-lane, 65-mile-an-hour highway.

Kuchler spoke to Young after witnessing the crash: “He said, ‘I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I was texting.’ I said, ‘Son, do you know what you just did?’ He said, ‘I’m sorry. I’m sorry.’”

Sorry hardly sums it up.

One difference between Concan and here? Texting while driving isn’t a crime.

Here’s the Associated Press report: “Texas’ Republican-controlled legislature approved a statewide ban in 2011 but it was vetoed by then-Gov. Rick Perry, who characterized such prohibitions as government micromanagement and said educating drivers was the key to deterrence.”

Apparently education was not good enough. And while it’s not a crime, it’s still fatal. Right now, U.S. figures suggest one in 10 fatal crashes are caused by distracted driving.

Concan, Texas? Far, far away.

But text while you’re driving and you may be remarkably close to your very own cataclysmic collision. No matter where you are.

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