Matthew Jelalian 01

Matthew Jelalian poses for a portrait in the Daily Herald studio on Friday, March 6, 2015. SAMMY JO HESTER, Daily Herald

Today marks the third anniversary of me being in a car crash that earned me a cracked sternum, broken rib, shattered elbow, and fractured knee, along with several other scrapes, cuts and burns.

My injuries would require a screw in my knee, 30 nails in my elbow (along with three metal plates) and a lot of tears from my pregnant wife as she learned that, during one of the surgeries, my oxygen tube got dislodged for an unknown period of time and I aspirated.

I’d spend the next week sleeping, hooked up to a Dilaudid drip dreaming that I was being flung out of the back of a truck into the sky.

Then I’d spend the next month or so in a physical rehab facility eating slop that was prepared for the senior citizens while 18-year-old girls who were a literal third my size were charged with the task of moving me because I couldn’t walk.

When I finally admitted home, I’d go to outpatient rehab, receive a COBRA notice from my main employer, practice walking and using the stairs, and lose track of time thanks to the painkillers I was on.

Percocet is a magical pill and I highly recommend taking it about 30 minutes before church starts so it’s working at full force by the first hymn. Talk about feeling the Spirit.

After the surgery, the slop meals, and the first few weeks of rehab, my doctor told me that he’d let me drive (and therefore work) if I could get off of the painkillers.

And although I took them as prescribed in the hospital and rehab, and I took them less than prescribed when at home, there was still about a week-long period where I sat in a recliner sweating, shivering, and dealing with some of the worst insomnia I’ve ever experienced.

Needless to say, when I got into that crappy work van that day to run what probably equated to a personal errand for my boss, I thought it was going to equate to a late lunch break, but I was late to a lot more than that.

I missed Thanksgiving. I had to get permission to leave rehab to enjoy Christmas with my family. I missed assembling my first son’s crib. In fact, I was worried if I’d even be able to hold him come delivery time for a while.

I missed a lot more than a lunch break that day.

I bring this up because earlier this week, there was a big car crash on Redwood Road where a 24-year-old pregnant woman was critically injured. I first heard about it through a local Saratoga Springs Facebook page.

News outlets would eventually share images of one car pile on top of another with a third car spun out further away down the road.

Other than the woman there were apparently no other injuries, but I guarantee that whatever plans these people had this week (or longer) have been put on hold if not canceled entirely.

I’ve also been thinking of the handful of other crashes that happened at the 1600 North Orem exit where I had my crash. Each of those stories ended with someone dying. And I can’t think of anything worse than having to postpone your life to organized an unplanned funeral.

I’ve written about adapting to the driving culture of where you live. And I still think that’s valid advice. While my family lived in Provo, I realized that the overall driving situation was better the further away I was from campus.

I think that’s because BYU is unique in that it pulls from student populations from all over the world. This means that the way these students react to different situations while in the car is going to differ greatly. And while differences can and should be celebrated in the classroom or our neighborhoods, these same differences can cause problems when it involves a half-ton of steel moving a 60 miles per hour.

Although I do believe that people should adapt to the driving culture where they live, that does not mean that the driving culture in Utah is perfect. I think most people would be able to agree that most driving cultures are far from perfect, no matter where you are.

I’ve noticed that my fellow Utahns love to ride people’s tails, they don’t care for their turn signals, and they oftentimes would rather run you off the road than zipper merge.

If you don’t know what a zipper merge is, please Google it. You might save a life.

Overall, it seems like if we aren’t checking our collective religions at the car door, we’re at least checking our sense politeness and courteousness.

Every time you get in the car, you run the risk of getting injured or dying for so many reasons. It could be due to mechanical failure like it was in my case. It could be due to poor weather conditions. Or it could be because you can’t see the paint lines on the road because that’s a mystery too complex for the state of Utah to solve.

Why add to those risks by driving like an idiot?

As someone who has gone through the experience already, I can tell you refusing to signal so “the enemy” won’t know you’re pulling into McDonald’s is not worth the trouble.