Be careful on the road

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Returning from Russellville on Sunday, I came across the scene of a car-motorcycle accident on Highway 21 in northern Johnson County.

The motorcycle (what remained of it, anyway) lay crumpled in a roadside ditch. The minivan that it struck was turned sideways in the road, with some damage to its front left side. Thankfully, no one was injured. The biker was actually directing traffic, while a woman who I assumed to be the driver of the minivan stood along the shoulder of the road, shaking.

It was a bit of a surreal scene, but one that unfortunately plays out much too often, especially in areas like ours that are popular with motorcycle riders, and especially this time of year when the weather is perfect for a nice bike ride on a winding road.

One day earlier, a local resident wasn't as fortunate as the biker I encountered on Highway 21. David Stettenbenz of Eureka Springs died Saturday when his motorcycle collided with a truck on Highway 62. To add more tragedy, Stettenbenz's beloved dog Roxie was injured and had to be euthanized.

All of this reminded me of one of the hardest days I have ever had as a parent. On Sept. 9, 2012, my former wife's brother, my sons' beloved Uncle Bill, was killed when an intoxicated driver ran through a stop sign and struck his motorcycle in South Milwaukee, Wis. Bill died instantly. He was 34.

That accident occurred the day after my oldest son, Ronnie, celebrated his 20th birthday. I know he will never again have a birthday that doesn't bring with it a degree of sadness.

My younger son, Ryan, was visiting me at the time. His mother called me to tell me what happened and ask me to bring Ryan home so that they could travel to Wisconsin. She then asked me to hand the phone to Ryan so that she could break the news to him. I will never forget the feeling of helplessness that overwhelmed me as I watched my son in excruciating pain. The three-hour trip to take him home felt as if it lasted three days.

As I've said before in this space, driving is an inherently dangerous activity that many people sometimes take for granted. When you are behind the wheel of a vehicle, you are operating a piece of heavy machinery at high speed and your actions have the potential for life-altering consequences for yourself, the people you love and the other drivers on the road.

Please, be careful.

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Scott Loftis is managing editor for Carroll County Newspapers. His email address is CarrollCountyNews@cox-internet.com