Matt Logan speaks to the students at Chatfield High School about making good decisions, such as taking control of distractions while driving. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
Matt Logan speaks to the students at Chatfield High School about making good decisions, such as taking control of distractions while driving. GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/CHATFIELD NEWS
"It was 4 in the afternoon, and I was heading down the road. I'll never forget what I saw...the scene is burned into my mind. I came up over the hill and saw Mayo One landing, an ambulance, the fire department, the police directing traffic to turn around. I didn't know what for, and from the angle I was at, I couldn't see what was going on behind the school bus, but it was that feeling that you get in your stomach," said Byron resident Matt Logan, speaking to the students of Chatfield High School last Friday. "I got out and asked the police officer directing traffic what had happened, because I was pretty sure D.J. would be traveling this road."

The program was arranged by the Chatfield chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions (SADD)

Matt went on, "I described my daughter's vehicle to the officer, and he told me that he didn't know what kind of vehicle it was, that he was just there to turn people around, but if I would go sit in my car, he would try to find out. I unwillingly went and sat in my car. It was an eternity...and then he came and wanted to see my driver's license, wanted to know my full name, all of it. I asked, 'How is she?' and he could only say, 'I don't know anything. I do know that she still has a heartbeat but she's unconscious.'"

His daughter, Deianerah Jean "D.J." Logan, 17, was excited about her first day of school as a senior on Sept. 4, 2012, and in the moments after school that she decided to send a text message, the world completely changed for the Logan family. Her decision to send that text determined how many living children Matt and Megan Logan now have and what the couple would choose to do with the rest of their lives.

Matt elaborated, "The officer started to explain the process, told me to call our family and friends, and I watched as they lifted D.J. out of the minivan, strapped her to a cot and loaded her onto Mayo One. She had a neck brace, and it was obvious they were not going to let me get close. I watched Mayo One lift off, not knowing what her condition was."

At Saint Marys, the Logans were ushered into a small waiting room, a place where Matt described the wait as "another eternity."

"I could see the worry on the doctor's face, and next were the words that parents fear for the entire life of their child...'we're sorry, but there's absolutely nothing we can do'," he said. "At 8:51 p.m., D.J. took her last breath...she never regained consciousness. Later that night, very late as word spread about her accident, her classmates and friends came to visit and say goodbye. The nurses stopped counting kids at 200. Keep in mind that this is the Mayo Clinic, and these were nurses who had been there for 25 years and never seen such an outpouring of support, ever."

He explained that his daughter was a good driver, that she was more likely to take cell phones away from friends texting from behind the wheel, and that it came as a surprise to the family when the investigation into D.J.'s crash determined that she had possibly been sending a text message to a friend while driving.

Matt pointed out that the art of multitasking is one that the human brain "deludes itself" into thinking it can handle. Even though he'd taught himself to ride a unicycle, he couldn't imagine trying to ride a unicycle while sending a text message.

He also suggested that most of the boys on the football team would not volunteer to drive the length of the football field blindfolded at 55 miles per hour if a friend were to dare them to do so, and that it takes only 4.6 seconds to travel that 100 yards.

He challenged the students to justify how they could drive and text if out of every six seconds, they're paying attention to their cell phones for 4.6 seconds.

"Riding a unicycle is hard. But we delude ourselves when we feel safe in a car, with four wheels under us, all that metal around us, our seatbelts on," Matt said. "We feel invincible. D.J. thought she was invincible that day, she thought she didn't have limitations."

The road conditions were clear the day that D.J. rear-ended the school bus, and the young driver had, in her father's opinion, a good driver's education that began at home.

But, he observed, "Using a cell phone in the car is like being drunk at the state legal limit of .08. And those numbers and statistics don't change that D.J. isn't here. She wasn't a bad driver, she didn't have any speeding tickets. It doesn't matter if you're a good driver. Our family will never be the same...she didn't get to go to prom, she didn't graduate."

A student asked how Megan Logan handles her grief since she was not available to answer questions, and to that, Matt gave "an honest answer, because I told you I would be honest."

"We're no longer together, and that's because our family is changed," he said. "In fact, 80 percent of families are broken up by tragedy like this. It affects everybody."

Yet, he related, D.J.'s friends still have to put their cell phones in their trunks before driving, and even he admitted to being distracted by his own phone, but reiterated to the students that the statistics he cited - that 95 people were killed through crashes as a result of distracted driving in 2012 - included his daughter.

According to literature Logan handed out, showing photos of D.J. and the remains of her minivan, "It is illegal for drivers under age 18 to use a cell phone while driving. Turn ringers off and put phones out of reach to avoid the urge to answer or dial."

It went on to give tips to prevent distractions while driving, such as, "Have passengers handle calls. Set mirrors and music (not too loud) before driving. Don't eat or drink while driving. Know trip directions in advance. Park at a safe location to look at a map. Drive well-rested. If you feel tired, find a safe place to rest. An open window or loud music won't help. It is illegal for ALL drivers to read, compose or send text messages and e-mails, or access the Internet using a wireless device while the vehicle is in motion or a part of traffic - including when stopped in traffic or at a traffic light."

And to show the students that the laws do matter, he pulled from his pocket the unmarred pink cell phone D.J. was holding when she crashed.

"It's not worth it," Matt concluded. "Your friends on the other end of the line want to hear from you. It doesn't matter that they hear from you sooner...they don't care how soon. They can hear from you later. But it isn't worth it to text and drive."