John Sligting routinely went out of his way for anyone who might need his support.
A father to three daughters and a grandfather to four grandchildren, John balanced the demands of his job and spending quality time with his family. He was passionate about both. He began his career as a volunteer firefighter and climbed the ranks to Captain at the Great Lakes Naval Base in Waukegan, IL. He was president of the International Association of FireFighters Union and the national delegate of his local chapter. John was loved by all who met him. He was a dedicated father and firefighter.
John also was an avid motorcyclist. Despite Illinois not having a helmet requirement for motorcyclists, John religiously wore one and he was cautious when he traveled through intersections so other motorists would see him.
On June 13, 2007, a 17-year-old driver, distracted by her cell phone conversation, did not.
The teen was speaking with her mother on her cell phone after dropping off a friend. She disregarded a stop sign and pulled into the intersection in front of John.
As he always did when he approached an intersection, John honked his horn. The teen did not see him, and John collided with her vehicle.
In the moments following the crash, John passed away at the scene.
“We saw the skid mark left by his motorcycle on the road,” said John’s daughter Cynthia Cooper. “He saw what was coming and tried to stop.”
Suddenly John’s daughters would have to accept their father wouldn’t be able to spend quality time with his family like everyone had hoped.
Car crashes involving teen drivers kill more than 5,000 people each year. Teens are three times as likely to crash simply because they are inexperienced. Adding dangerous distractions such as cell phone use and driving at nighttime significantly increase that crash risk.
Drivers of all ages talking on a cell phone –handheld or hands-free – are four times as likely to crash. These drivers also miss important driving cues and often fail to scan their driving environment to check for pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists.
When a driver is talking on a cell phone, he or she is cognitively distracted and not focused solely on the task of driving.
Cognitive distraction leads too often to tragedies such as John’s.
“Take a look at someone whose life has been changed because of a crash involving a distracted driver,” Cynthia said. “Do not make the same mistake others have made in the past.”
Cynthia shares her story in the hope of ending this deadly epidemic. Her older sister, Charlene Sligting, turned to advocacy efforts. Charlene manages the HEARTS Network and works with members of the Illinois Teen Safe Driving Coalition.
John’s family realize his legacy lives on through them, but like all families affected by crashes, they endure that incredible pain every day.