Most people have witnessed it at one time or another. A cell phone beeps, the driver takes their eyes off the road for just a few seconds to check their text messages, and usually no one thinks much of it. That quick glance, however, is all it takes to kill someone, and it's happening more and more all the time.
Norbert Georget gave a captivating presentation at Grenfell High Community School last week to try and spread awareness about the dangers of drunk driving as well as something that's becoming disturbingly common in this technological age - distracted driving.
"In Canada last year, over 500 people were killed due to texting and driving," Georget said soberly to the group of teens.
A former EMT, Georget has attended to numerous accident scenes, and knows first-hand just how many of those could have been prevented.
Georget has used students' feedback from past talks to determine how to make the greatest impact, and has been tweaking his presentations for years. He's figured out along the way that statistics and long lectures simply aren't enough to make a lasting impression on teens, so his presentations hold nothing back.
He shows students graphic proof that impaired and distracted driving can ruin lives, with pictures of crash scenes and victims, and shares his own personal experiences.
Georget's own son was once involved in a rollover, after he and his best friend decided to go drinking and driving.
"My son lived, but my son's best friend - he didn't," Georget explained.
When he first started out, his presentations were all about impaired driving, but the ever-increasing popularity of cell phones and other gadgets has unfortunately made it necessary for him to include distracted driving in his talks.
He related the story of a close friend of his who, not knowing that her son was on the road, sent him a seemingly innocent text message asking him if he had picked up his report card from school. While texting his mother back, the teen smashed into a bus that was attempting to cross the highway, killing him instantly. There were no skidmarks, indicating that he most likely didn't even see it coming.
RCMP members later found his phone with an unfinished text message that read, "Yeah, Mom..."
Georget attended the funeral, and recalled his friend's heart wrenching words as she tried to come to terms with her son's death.
"She said, 'I shouldn't have sent him that text.' Because she felt she'd killed her son," Georget said, his voice shaking with emotion. "She wished her son would have ignored her."
Another tragedy that has stuck with him happened when he first started working as an EMT. A man had been loading up his boat when he was distracted by a cell phone call. He forgot to secure it to the trailer hitch before driving away, and the boat careened off the road and into a young couple, killing them both. Their little 2 1/2-year-old daughter survived, and was crying at the scene when Georget arrived.
"All she kept saying was, 'I want my mommy.' I'll never forget that," he said, shaking his head.
Georget explained to the students that a driver is four times more likely to crash when talking on a hand-held cell phone and driving, which is roughly the equivilent of driving with a .08 blood alcohol level. Drivers are a whopping eight times more likely to crash while texting and driving.
"You know why? Because number one, she has her eyes totally off the road and number two, her mind is somewhere else."
Georget has had to work hard to turn his passion into a full-time job, and credits Grenfell with being one of the communities that gave him a 'break' years ago, when he was first trying to get his idea off the ground.
"Since then I've been travelling around North America and around the world - as a matter of fact, last year I was in New Zealand for a tour - and I want to thank you guys for that," he said.