by Marilyn Bachman
(This is the fifth in a month-long series of guest blog posts from National Safety Council survivor advocates. We are sharing our stories in honor of National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.)
Look at the photo above. I would like to introduce to you John and Marilyn Bachman, married on July 20, 1991.
This picture was taken on Thanksgiving Day, November 28, 2013, three weeks and three days before December 23, 2013, a day when my life, my family’s lives and many friends’ lives changed forever….
My husband, John, was an electrical engineer by profession. He was also an entrepreneur, a fire chief, a baseball umpire and coach, a master gardener and a gourmet chef…and my forever mate.
It happened on a Monday, just two days before Christmas. On December 23, 2013, John walked outside to check the mail. The mailbox was at the end of our driveway, no more than 35 feet from the front door.
He opened the mailbox. As he reached for the mail sitting inside, he was struck and killed by a car driven by a man who was texting.
Walking to your mailbox should be an everyday, uneventful occurrence. That day it was not.
When I ran outside, John was lying on the other side of a snowbank, calling for help. I heard his moans and ran to him. His face was covered in blood and he wasn’t able to move.
In the emergency room, the doctors and medical personnel worked with precision to stabilize his condition. But I knew John was dying. His body had massive internal injuries—spinal injuries, broken bones—and his head was lacerated. John and I stared at each other, knowing that this was the end. Holding my hand, he squeezed it two times—our unspoken secret code for “I love you.”
By spring, the snow had started melting, and I was terrified to see the bare ground beneath where John had lain in the snow months before. I thought about the driver who’d killed him. I couldn’t understand how he couldn’t make the decision to wait to communicate. What had been so pressing? Why risk taking your eyes off the road?
If the driver had made a responsible decision that day not to pick up his phone, so many lives would be different.
Eight months later, the week before Thanksgiving, the Superior Court trial began. It ran for five days. Witness after witness as well as reconstruction experts gave testimonies filled with factual data that proved the driver had caused John’s death.
Fact: Blood and hair samples were taken from his broken passenger-side mirror and a smashed passenger-side headlight was found on the vehicle.
Fact: The driver stated he’d hit a mailbox or a snowbank or a tree.
Fact: The driver admitted he’d been texting—using voice-to-text technology.
Fact: There were no skid marks—no brakes had been applied at the scene.
Fact: The driver did not stop! At the time of the accident, the driver was correcting a text he’d spoken out loud for a total of 7.3 seconds!
Close your eyes and count to seven. It’s quite a long time isn't it?
After the five days were over, the driver who'd killed John was charged with negligent homicide.
He was found not guilty.
You may be asking yourself, how could he be found not guilty?
At the time, the distracted-driving law in our state, New Hampshire, was outdated. This happened before technology was what it is today. On July 1, 2015, a new distracted-driving law went into effect, one that promises strict enforcement and prohibits the use of handheld devices.
Fact: Whether hands-free or handheld, using a phone while driving can result in killing someone.
My husband’s life ended all because someone couldn't wait.
Put down the phone.
Marilyn Bachman is originally from Sutton, MA. She worked for 19 years at Yankee Atomic Electric Company in Bolton, MA, and also at Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power in Vernon, VT, as an engineering technician and in QA. In 2000 she began working for the Bedford School District in Bedford, NH, in Administration as Assistant to the Director of Special Services.
Now retired, Marilyn lives in Amherst, NH, where she tends to her many perennial flower gardens and grows vegetables. She is active in several civic groups (the Amherst Garden Club, hospice volunteering and ladies' golf club) and enjoys bike riding and keeping up with her grandchildren.