By Lethbridge Herald on June 23, 2015.
It may have been just a quick phone call, or a text from a loved one you thought couldn’t wait.
But if you’ve checked your mobile phone while driving recently, or been otherwise distracted, Marj Machen’s story should make you put the device away while you’re behind the wheel.
The man who hit Machen in Texas in 2008 also probably thought it would just be a quick phone call.
The Lethbridge woman, and former triathlete, was working in the U.S. as a high level fitness trainer when she was hit by a distracted driver as she was cycling.
Now she lives her life from a wheelchair.
“I really want the awareness to be made known. Lately, it’s been really bad; it’s out of control. Everyday I go on the Access-a-Ride, I see it constantly,” Machen said of people mostly texting or talking as they drive.
“How many people have to die or have long-term injuries for people to get it? Just be aware that a matter of seconds can affect somebody for the rest of their life.”
On Friday, Immanuel Christian High School, Machen’s alma mater, is hosting the “No Distraction” 5K fun run to raise awareness about distracted driving.
The event, set for 7 p.m. at the Nicholas Sheran Picnic Shelter, also aims to raise funds to make Machen’s yard and home more accessible.
Machen’s longtime friend Ann Konynenbelt said distracted driving doesn’t have a real connected meaning for those who still text, talk, or are otherwise doing anything besides focusing on the road.
“For me, if I ever hear my phone ringing, or I’m tempted to check a text, Marj’s face is in front of me. And that’s enough,” she said. “Things like this will hopefully put a face to it.”
“It’s about giving back to the community,” Machen said. “I’m happy to advocate. Whatever it takes to get the message out there. I’ve chosen forgiveness; forgiveness is freedom. Hopefully he’ll never do it again — and realize exactly what he’s done.”
Alberta recently raised the associated fines for distracted driving. Texas, meanwhile, still doesn’t have a universal state-wide distracted driving law.
Participation for Friday’s run is limited to the first 500 entrants. Donations from those not wanting to run will also be accepted.
Registration is $25 and can be done online at: http://www.nodistraction.org. Each runner will also be asked to sign a pledge to never drive distracted.
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