I can't stop thinking about the horrible crash singer Brandy reportedly caused.
According to reports, the tiny singer was driving a Land Rover on the 405 in L.A.. Traffic slowed and stopped; she did not, say reports. Her car apparently pushed a Honda into another car, the Honda then hit a center divider, and then was hit by yet another car. Awatef Aboudihaj, 38, was in the car hit by the Land Rover, and was killed. TMZ.com has put photos of the cars online, and it makes my heart sink to look at how Aboudihaj's car door is smashed in. Airbags, seat belts, nothing was going to save that driver.
The news is sickening because it's easy to imagine yourself in the situation. A friend and his pregnant wife were recently stopped at a traffic light and were hit by a car and pushed into the car in front of them. My friend's wife saw the crash coming and could do nothing but sit helplessly and brace for impact. Thankfully, both of them and the baby are OK, although their three-week-old car was totaled.
A year ago, my husband and I were stopped in heavy traffic when a pickup truck failed to stop, smashed into the car in front of it, pushing that car into us and our car into the car in front of us. Four cars headed to the shop, four carloads of people jolted (again, thankfully, no one was seriously hurt) -- all because someone apparently wasn't paying attention to the road.
We don't know if Brandy, or any of the drivers in the other accidents, were using cell phones or were distracted by any of the many gadgets now in today's cars -- DVD players, GPS units, built-in computers. But we've all been driving and seen distracted drivers doing everything from reading newspapers to yakking on the phone to applying mascara to eating giant meals. It's gotten so bad where I live, in Seattle, that I have a little game I play. If a nearby driver is in some way driving recklessly, I look for a phone. 90 percent of the time I can also see that the bad driver also has a small phone shoved up to his or her ear. (Note to commenter Kim: I'm a passenger when I play this game, not the driver.)
I'm not against gadgets, don't get me wrong. As a woman who sometimes has to drive alone, I'm happy to have the security of a cell phone in my purse, especially at night. Phones, DVD players, these are all useful appliances. Used safely, they won't kill anyone -- it seems ridiculous to even have to say that, but there it is.
I saw Brandy last summer at the TV Critics' Association meeting in Pasadena, when she was on a panel for "America's Got Talent." She seemed so tiny, and so young, and even a little bit shy, trying to gamely parry and joke with fellow "Talent" judge David Hasselhoff. And while I can't stop thinking of the woman who died and her poor family, I can also too easily imagine what it would be like to be Brandy at this time. How does she live with herself? How does she ever drive a car again? This is no TV show, no Hollywood movie, there are no retakes. Nothing she does can ever bring Awatef Aboudihaj back to her family.
Something distracted Brandy -- maybe not a phone, maybe just something she saw out of the corner of her eye, maybe something she was thinking about, maybe the glinting L.A. sun -- but for a time, she apparently was not focusing on piloting her vehicle, and she, and the drivers around her, paid a horrible price.