Steve Labenz: A Victim of Distracted Driving

Steve Labenz: A Victim of Distracted Driving

Maggie Eldred, Social Media Manager

Steve Labenz’ first week of school was just like the start of his previous 19 years of teaching. He was giving lectures, answering questions, and even spending hours outside of class doing his radio show at WFGR 98.7.  But, this year, everything could have been different.

In July, Labenz was involved in a serious car-motorcycle accident that has him thankful to be alive.

Labenz was riding his motorcycle on the way to his part time radio gig on Pearl Street in the heart of downtown, where he saw a car. According to Labenz, the car was making its way in and out of lanes, as if the driver had no idea where he was going. Then, the car swerved towards him.

“He came over so fast. I remember [grabbing] the brake as hard as I could… I remember him [swerving] and he hit the bike,” Labenz said.

When Labenz was hit, he was thrown from the bike and continued skidding and rolling on the road.  Miraculously, he ended up with just road rash on his right side of his torso, upper leg, knee, and an injured hand from gripping the brake while going down.

The largest extent of his injuries was road rash, some scars, and the loss of feeling in one of his fingers.

“There were a lot of things that happened correctly for me to not be as hurt,” Labenz said.

He was forced to roll across the far right lane of traffic and onto the shoulder of Highway 131 to avoid being hit.

“In that split second I remember thinking, ‘oh, he hit me.’ Then, I hit the pavement,” Labenz recalled.” I remember being jarred and seeing perpendicular to the road.. Then I started to roll,” Labenz said.

Labenz was only laying alone on the highway for a short amount of time.

“I was only there for 10-30 seconds before someone stopped, and the lady said she was an EMT,” Labenz said. “She said, ‘are you okay?’ and I said, ‘I got hit by a car.’ Then I checked to see if I could move my fingers and toes.”

According to Labenz, the woman stated her name and started probing him with questions like she would do if she were on the job. He said that he thought he could sit up, but she shot that down quicker than she said it. He also recalled that he did not feel as if he had broken anything, and thought it was just a big impact, but she didn’t want him to risk it, in case there was any spinal damage.

As he was looking at the woman, he began to hear sirens almost immediately. The ambulance came up and the EMT put a neck brace on him. They then placed him onto the stretcher and loaded him into the ambulance. As he was loaded into the ambulance, they hooked him up to IV’s and began running fluids for safe measure.

Labenz arrived at Butterworth Hospital’s downtown campus at 9:00 a.m. That morning, he was bandaged and sent out by 1:30 p.m. 

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The Distraction

According to the Huffington Post’s article “10 Statistics that Capture the Dangers of Texting and Driving,” 1 in 4 collisions involves a cell phone. 341,000 is the number of motor collisions that involved texting as of 2015.  Labenz knows this firsthand.

“The guy was from out of town, he didn’t know where he was going, and his GPS told him to get off at Pearl street,” Labenz said.

Nine Americans are killed everyday because of texting, eating, or using a cell phone while driving.

“All he got was [a ticket for] failure to yield,” Labenz said.

Labenz was not satisfied with this outcome for the distracted driver.. Labenz feels that it is “ridiculous” for him to get this ticket and small fine as his only punishment for totalling his motorcycle and causing his injuries.

“I think they need to have something more for people who are driving distracted because everybody thinks, especially young people, that you’re pros at driving and at texting,” Labenz said.

According to Labenz, the cop said that the driver was very shaken up.

“Imagine if he killed me,” Labenz said. “I mean, does everyone have to go through that to not text and drive?”

Although the majority of his injuries were minor, Labenz does not want to leave a minor mark on the community.

In the corner of his room, he keeps his jacket from the accident. It has holes, it has rips, and it is shredded. This jacket is a reminder to all his students to put their phones down when driving.

According to Labenz, he is going to keep it there to show his students the dangers of driving distracted.

“I hope somebody learns something from [the crash],” Labenz said.