Make One Smart, Safe Choice at a Time

By Rick Hildebrand

Before you get in a big hurry.

Before you are distracted by your daily schedule.

Before you go for that joy ride with your friends.

Before you choose to ignore the rules of the road…

Before you get in the driver’s seat, remember driving is a responsibility and privilege; and each time you put yourself in control of a motor vehicle you are affecting not just your own life, but the lives of countless others who share the roadways with you.
It was a cloudy, damp and cool fall day. We were on our way back from running errands in town. It was a remote gravel country road only two miles from our home. I don’t even remember the hours before the wreck. Pieces have been filled in for me, but I will never know the whole story.
The first thing I remember is coming to in an unknown cold sterile room. Any concrete memories didn’t come until a couple of months later when I was in a rehabilitation hospital located in another state. The realization of being paralyzed over 90% of my body both shocked and sobered me at the same time.
Life for me would never be the same. Life for my family would never be the same.
As I became more aware of my condition, the question was “what happened?” 
We, my wife was also in the car, were “t-boned” by two young drivers, a 16-year-boy and a 14-year-old girl.
The impact was on my (the driver’s) side of our car. Somehow I ended up in the ditch about 10 yards from our car. My wife ended up in the back seat. When she regained consciousness, she found me, barely breathing and unconscious. She managed to find her cell phone and call 911, even though at that point she had no idea what caused the wreck. Then someone came running up to her. He was young and hysterical. He was screaming, “Oh my God, is he dead, is he dead?” It was then my wife found out others were involved.
The boy told the police that he was teaching the girl how to drive. By the looks of the yield sign they broke in half before hitting us, he must have been training her for the race track. Our car skidded through a waterway and up into the field. They escaped with minor injuries. I wasn’t so lucky.
When you decide to run a yield sign, not look twice before pulling into an intersection and ignore the rules of driving, you could be altering someone’s life forever. You could be ending a life. And it might not be yours. That is a guilt you will carry for the rest of your days.
Make the choice to drive safe. Don’t drive in an altered state, don’t be foolish, and don’t drive distracted. Make one smart, safe choice at a time.

Rick Hildebrand is the art teacher for schools in USD 223 in Washington County


  1. Maria Torrez Anderson9/28/2015

    Your words ring so true. Driving is a serious matter and not to be taken lightly. Your story proves that it only takes a few minutes to change lives. Everyone needs to obey the rules of the road. So happy to see you are teacher working with youth so you can share your message.

  2. It's been noted by transportation experts that driving is the most dangrous thing most of us will do in any given day. But we rarely think about it that way. Thanks Rick. Unfortunately you found out just how important it is that we all think about how dagerous driving is - before we get behind the wheel.

  3. Low volume rural roads can be riskier than perceived. Narrow roadways, gravel surfaces, steep ditches, headwall, trees, limited sight distances and other hazards make the driving task nothing to take lightly especially when you have young drivers. Reasonable and cost effective measures should be considered were appropriate but the driver’s actions are by far the cause of most crashes. I hope we can educate our younger drivers to be more responsible and thank you for your effort to get this message out.