A NATIONAL EPIDEMIC!

What the world needs now -
Is dedicated young people with a passion and purpose for helping others.
What the world needs now -
Is for people to STOP TEXTING while DRIVING!

I have to admit, I, too have been guilty of being distracted by my cell phone while driving. (Although I am definitely not capable of texting unless I put on my "readers".) But as of July 13, 2016 I vowed NEVER again to look at my phone while I am driving!

The reason is personal, more personal than I ever thought possible. Earlier this past summer I wrote how my daughter, Kelsey, joined 25 other passionate young adults on a cross-country cycling journey to raise funds and awareness for affordable housing. Kelsey rode as part of an amazing non-profit organization called Bike & Build, which seeks an end to the housing crisis for millions of American who can't afford a decent home.

Bike & Build offers young adults the opportunity to bicycle across the country, on a 10 week trip, during which riders stop every week to join in a "build" project with organizations like Habitat for Humanity in various cities and towns across the US. They journey on one of six different routes, staying at hosts along the way, mostly church communities, other civic-minded groups and even camping when needed. Bike & Build teams have made stops in the Lehigh Valley in past years, working with our local Chapter of Habitat for Humanity.

On July 13, two of the cyclists on my daughter, Kelsey's Central US Bike & Build team were struck from behind by a car traveling 65 mph on a road near Idaho Falls, ID. In a split second their journey of compassion and caring turned into devastation for all those involved with this amazing charity.

Anne Davis, 22, of Richmond, VA was killed and Laura Stark, 26, was critically injured and remained in the hospital for several weeks. (Laura is still unable to walk). The driver of the vehicle was only charged with misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter. It was a harsh reminder of the dangers cyclists face in today's world of cell phones and social media.

Since Bike & Build began in 2002, almost 2000 passionate young adults have crossed America on a mission to make a difference. Sadly, Anne's death marks the FOURTH person on these rides to be killed by a motorist. The three previous Bike & Build deaths involved cyclists who had successfully completed multiple cross-country trips. These were seasoned riders with thousands of miles of experience between them.

In 2010, while leading the Providence to Seattle route, Paige Hicks was struck from behind by an oversized vehicle while stopped and pulled over on the shoulder of a road outside of Vetal, South Dakota. Paige had completed Bike & Build's Providence to San Francisco ride the previous year as well. A native of Missouri, Paige was an active member of the Brown University community.

Christina Genco was a Trip Leader on the 2011 South Carolina to Santa Cruz route when she was struck from behind by a driver in Alabama. Christina was participating in her second Bike & Build trip, after riding from Boston to Santa Barbara 2009. Christina graduated from Boston University in 2010 with degrees in Graphic Design and Hospitality Administration.

Patrick Wannikhof, was a Trip Leader on the Maine to Santa Barbara 2015 Bike & Build team. He was struck from behind by a motorist who was distracted by their cell phone outside Sayre, Oklahoma. Patrick was also an avid musician and came to Bike & Build after serving for 3 years with Teach for America in the Bronx, NY. Patrick's sister Suzette, a recent UPenn graduate, has taken up his torch and is currently on an 8000 mile journey to celebrate Patrick's life and raise awareness for the distracted driving epidemic that faces our world.
I would like for these amazing young people's lives to have made a difference. A difference in how we, as drivers of a potentially deadly machine, need to take more care in how we operate them. WE NEED TO STOP being distracted by all the other things going on in our lives and on our phones. Because in the end, nothing is more valuable, more important, than a human life.

Every life matters - matters more than that conversation I am delaying - by paying attention to the road.

For more information on Bike & Build, and a letter from their Board of Directors regarding their new initiative to raise awareness for cycling safety, go to; http://bikeandbuild.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Message-From-the-Board-of-Directors.pdf

Kate Elfatah