Submitted to The Simpsonian
Most teens and young adults are guilty of distracted driving, texting, eating, reaching for the phone, or even changing the radio. Multitasking while driving is still distracted driving.
After losing her father and grandmother to a car accident due to texting and driving, Simpson sophomore Morgan Castenson wants to tell Iowa residents and beyond why it’s important to leave that habit behind.
“I can relate, in driver’s education, they can preach so much ‘don’t text and drive,’ but when you see those families and how they’re affected, it really does hit home, and you’re like, ‘I’d never want to do that to a family,’” Castenson said.
Farm Bureau Financial Services reached out to the Castenson family in 2019 about involving them in their campaign to share more about the tragedies of distracted driving.
The campaign consists of four videos. The first one is about Castenson’s father, Dave, and the second is about her grandmother, Velma. The last two videos share the impact of that day and the aftereffect of lives being taken from distracted driving.
Farm Bureau Financial Services hopes the message speaks volumes and tugs on viewers’ emotions. The video does not have a copyright, but for good reasons. The video can be shared in driver’s education classes thanks to the Iowa State Patrol, health classes, and those who want to spread awareness of the ongoing issue.
Castenson commented that it was easy for the family to speak about the losses they had experienced but had always avoided the raw emotions. She mentioned that it’s not hard to remember what was happening at the time, but it’s not something that she talks about.
“We were okay with [talking about] it. We wanted our story to be heard, but with that being said, we haven’t talked about the rawness and what we were doing that day. We weren’t ready for those emotions. Every single one of us said that,” Castenson said. “You can tell in the video that none of us were ready for that. Also thinking, ‘wow I was at school that day.’”
The topic still isn’t easy, but she never realized how emotional the scene would get while filming. Genuine emotions were shared by siblings and Castenson’s mother. Kristi Castenson says that remembering the good memories with her kids keeps them grounded.
“Those are the good memories, too, that help you get through; the impact he had on the kids, classmates of the kids saying ‘Dave was at every game.’ He was always there to support us. But all that was taken away in one split second that someone wasn’t paying attention,” said Castenson’s mother, Kristi, in an interview with Farm Bureau Financial Services.
Farm Bureau shares these strategies to avoid distracted driving before you set out on the road:
Enable “Do Not Disturb” on your cell phone
Use an app to help avoid using your cell (https://www.fbfs.com/learning-center/5-safe-driving-apps-to-minimize-distracted-driving)
Select vehicle and radio settings
Keep music at a lower volume
Make sure kids in the backseat have what they need
Input your destination into your navigation system
The biggest takeaway from the video series is that distracted driving needs to be stopped and drivers should be held accountable to those simple standards.
According to drivinglaws.org, a distracted driving offense results in a fine of $100 in Iowa. If the driver causes an accident it is a $1,000 fine.
No dollar amount will give Castenson or her family a chance to see her father and grandmother again.
Texting while driving is still legal in some states. According to “I Drive Safely,” Arizona, Florida, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and West Virginia residents can still text and drive without any ramifications.
There is an urgent need to bring this before Iowa Legislature for the many families who have lost lives to distracted driving. The increase of technology in all hands presents a larger chance of this event occurring.
Spreading awareness to this topic is the smallest step, but the rest is in drivers’ hands.
For an accompanying video, check out the SCTV March 17 broadcast.