Life in Third Person

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This past weekend, the Washington State Distracted Driver law went into effect. As reported in USA Today, drivers like me are now prohibited from using cell phones, drinking, eating, or putting on makeup. We are even prohibited from holding a personal electronic device while stopped in traffic.[i] Fines start at $136, climbing to $234 for additional offenses within a five-year period.[ii] Shave or do your hair? That could cost you $99.[iii] As described by the Seattle Times, “No more tweeting, Facebook glancing, Snapchatting, and selfie-making are allowed behind the wheel for Monday’s morning commute . . .”[iv]

Over this past weekend, a form of selfie-making cost Obdulia Sanchez more than $99, $136 or even $234. Friday evening, Instagramming to music cost Obdulia Sanchez the life of her 14-year-old sister, Jacqueline. While Instagramming and driving intoxicated, she reportedly lost control of her car, which flipped and ejected two teenagers (neither wearing seatbelts) from the backseat. Her sister died at the scene and the other passenger had major leg trauma.[v]

On Monday, Washington State drivers felt inconvenienced, trying to figure out how to avoid being ticketed for doing things we’ve done for years. On Monday, “Obdulia Sanchez, 18, of Stockton (CA), was booked into the Merced County Jail for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs causing injury and gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated.”[vi]

A 2016 survey by State Farm Insurance found that 91% of respondent drivers owned a smartphone “compared to 52 percent just five years ago and 88 percent in 2015. This increase in ownership provides opportunities for more drivers to take part in several distracted driving behaviors than in the past . . . While it is true that distracted driving behaviors have been on the rise for the past several years, only two cellphone activity rates had significant increases this year: taking pictures and recording video.”[vii]

Obdulia Sanchez’s video, of before, during and after the crash, was initially posted to social media until removed, complete with her f-bomb-laced commentary, incredulous realization her sister could be dead and herself to blame, and eerily careful positioning of the camera after the crash to capture the image of her sister’s body. The Daily Buzz included this comment from a “woman who recorded Sanchez’s Instagram story before it could disappear . . . No one wanted to believe it, it was so crazy how desensitized and careless she seemed about someone as close to her as her sister. Who in the right mind continues to record?”[viii]

A part of me says Obdulia Sanchez wasn’t in her right mind; she was drunk and in shock. Another part of me says she’s 18 and 18-year-olds are notorious for failing to comprehend how bad things could happen to them. She is even heard saying, “this is the last thing I wanted to happen to us and it just did.”[ix] Still another part of me says that the smartphone generation has a disturbing tendency to live their lives in third person, providing video and commentary of those lives from the surreal distance of a spectator.

On the video, Obdulia says she doesn’t care she killed her sister or that she’s going to prison. I don’t believe either. I heard her frantic pleas for her sister to “wake up!”

“Survey respondents reported using smartphones while driving despite finding them distracting. And despite thinking the behavior increases the likelihood of a crash. When asked why, they provided reasons such as improved efficiency, need to stay in touch, habit, searching for information on the internet, and seeing something they want to share.”[x] On Friday, those reasons weren’t good enough.

A Gofundme page has been set up to assist with the funeral expenses for Jacqueline, who was preparing for her Quincenera.[xi] There was no report of a page set up to assist with attorney expenses for Obdulia.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.