The text message that nearly ended my life

Half a second of distraction and I was no longer cruising down the highway in control of my car. Instead my sports-wagon was spinning around wildly, and I had crossed the little white lines separating my lane from the on-coming traffic too many times to know whether I was in the right one or not.

So what caused this shit-in-pants-worthy incident? Was I just a terrible driver? Was I inexperienced on the highway? Was I speeding? Well, no, no, and a little bit but that’s not the point.

After finishing high school and completing a gap year full of soul searching and finding ones true self (read: a lot of alcohol consumption), I decided to put myself through another three years of education. I consequently moved two hours north to the closest university town – the originally named Townsville.

Most of my family and friends remained in my home town, meaning I regularly made the trip back in the family’s old Hyundai Lantra. I usually stayed alert by blasting some form of music with excessive bass. It’s hard to fall asleep when your body is being physically moved by the tremor coming from your speakers. Up until now it had been enough to keep me alive.

But this time is different.

This time I assume that I can safely send a text message whilst behind the wheel. Ironically, I began to text a friend I had plans to meet up with to let them know I was nearly in town. It will only take a couple of seconds, right? What’s the worst that could happen?

I learnt the answer to that question the hard way. I looked up from my phone to find my car had veered quite dramatically to the left and was about to leave the road. My instinctive reaction was to swerve as quickly as I could to the right. Unfortunately for me, the side of the highway was covered in loose gravel and in my hasty over-correction the car swung over into the wrong lane. Another over-correction and I lost all control as my car zigzagged back and forth, before starting to spin around in the middle of the highway.


My life did not flash before my eyes. In fact, my mind was denying the whole experience. “This cannot be happening to me! What the fuck is going on?” my brain screamed, clearly in shock as my car veered off the road, down a grassy slope and through a barbed-wire fence.

There was nothing I could do except close my eyes and hope I wasn’t about to be wrapped around a tree. Luckily, I had picked the only stretch not completely dotted with pines or gums within a five kilometre radius to plough 20 metres off the road and into a paddock. I thanked my lucky stars a second time when I finally came to a stop, looked to my left and realised I was 10 metres short of crashing into a cluster of huge cement pipes.

I simultaneously let out a sigh of relief and burst into tears. With a look of betrayal I grabbed the phone from my lap and dialled my father’s number. Apparently the sound emitted from my throat can only be described as a guttural, hysterical wail. Once I calmed down and waved away the few people that pulled over, looked down the embankment and asked if I had “really just crashed through that fence?” I thought of how incredibly lucky I was, especially considering what could have happened if there had been any on-coming traffic.

I seemed to have escaped any physical harm. I opened the car door and stepped out to inspect the damage, only to be stung by a paper wasp. Twice.

I guess the moral to this story is if you think you can text and drive without repercussions, even if you’ve done it a thousand times before, just once you may end up getting stung. I ended up with a few hours spent in shock, two welts on my hand and a huge excess insurance bill, you may not be as lucky.

Beth Roberts is a 22 year old  journalism graduate living in Brisbane and dabbling in freelance writing.