By Starrla Cray
LESTER PRAIRIE It wasn’t easy for Matt Logan to stand in front of Lester Prairie High School students April 13 and talk about the crash that killed his 17-year-old daughter.
“This isn’t fun,” he admitted to them. “I do this because I care about you.”
Ever since his daughter, Deej, died while texting and driving in September 2012, Matt has been traveling to schools to share this message: “Distracted driving is 100-percent choice.”
Many people think they can text and drive without consequence, but it only takes a few seconds for that choice to forever change someone’s life.
The day Deej died was the first day of her senior year at Byron High School near Rochester. After school, she called Matt to let him know she planned to stop at Subway before dropping her sister off at pre-game soccer practice.
“It was a normal two to three minute conversation,” Matt recalled, adding that Deej even shared a bit of drama that had happened at lunchtime.
‘She will not survive’
Around 4 p.m., Matt was driving on a road near his home radio up, windows down when he saw a rescue helicopter landing.
“I saw a whole slew of emergency vehicles,” he said. “What I didn’t see was who was involved.”
Concerned that he might know the person, Matt pulled over. A deputy who was directing traffic confirmed that Deej was involved, and directed Matt to the emergency room where she would be taken.
Matt remembers the deputy saying, “All we know right now is that she has a faint heartbeat, she’s unconscious, and they are still trying to extricate her from the vehicle.”
The news didn’t get better at the hospital.
“We’re sorry. There’s nothing we can do for your daughter. She will not survive these injuries,” Matt recalled a doctor telling him.
Later that day, Deej took her last breath.
Law enforcement spent the next 4.5 weeks investigating the crash. It was determined that Deej had been composing a text message the moment she collided with a school bus. The phone had been in her hand, and the text was unsent.
“They figure she was distracted for three seconds that’s it,” Matt said.
The family was surprised that Deej had been texting and driving, because she knew it was illegal, and would take phones away from others who were driving.
Words that could wait
Matt said Deej probably started out checking messages while at a stop sign, then began glancing at her phone while traveling 30 mph in town. Matt guessed that once Deej became comfortable with that, she started texting on the straight roads home from school, when no other cars were around.
Matt said people know that trying to multitask while driving isn’t a good idea, but they often think they are “skilled enough” to handle it.
Matt shared a quote from Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) neuroscientist Earl Miller: “People can’t multitask very well, and when they say they can, they’re deluding themselves. The brain is very good at deluding itself.”
Matt explained that people’s brains don’t actually “multitask,” but instead switch from task to task.
“What’s really hard for me to say and come to as a dad is, Deej made a bad choice, and it cost her her life,” Matt said.
Unfortunately, Deej and her family aren’t the only ones to be affected by distracted driving.
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety reports that inattentive driving is a factor in one in four crashes, resulting in at least 70 deaths and 350 serious injuries. The department notes that the number is likely much higher, but it can be a challenge for law enforcement to determine if distraction was a factor in a crash.
Matt said he hopes his daughter’s story will encourage other people to focus on the road while driving and not to allow distractions even for a few seconds.
“I don’t want anybody else to go through a tragedy like I did,” he said.