Health & Wellness

Mindfulness: Seatbelt Safety Saves New Jersey Family

The SUV vehicle that exploded into flames less than a minute after the LaRosa family escaped.
The SUV vehicle after the flames were extinguished.
Life is Beautiful sculpture at Cibo Wine Bar in South Beach, Miami, Florida. Credits: Shari LaRosa

Mindful Driving 

I had just excitedly taken a photo in front of this Life Is Beautiful Sculpture after spending a very lovely week away with family and friends.  It was the last night of what was truly a wonderful vacation.  I actually sat at dinner and while looking around the room, I was appreciating the good friends, the delicious food and the gorgeous evening wishing it would last longer.  The next day we would be headed back to the cold weather.

The following morning was beautiful in terms of the glistening sunrise and the sparkling water, but not so was the experience that was about to happen.  We called an Uber to take us from South Beach, to Miami airport.  My husband sat in the front and I sat in between my two daughters ages 12 and 15 at the time.  It was a little after 6 am.  I told the younger to buckle up as she was semi-laying down tired.   Although we were going for a short city ride, I insisted she put her seatbelt on.  My older daughter had already done so automatically.  I buckled up as well for what should have been a 15 minute ride to the airport.   All of us were kind of dazed and tired as we headed onto the parkway.  Just as we approached an overpass – boom, we were hit from behind.  It knocked off the tire of the Honda SUV Uber we were in and our car spun around and around hitting the side of the overpass.  I thought we were going over.  Somehow, all our luggage actually did eject from the vehicle and go over the overpass.  ‘When is this going to stop, what is this going to feel like’ – the thoughts going through my head.  ‘What is my husband thinking?  My daughter kept saying ‘I love you.’  The car came to a stop.  Everyone got out and I try to as well but I was stuck. The car was filling with smoke.  In a panic I was able to lift the belt over my lap and shimmy underneath it to escape the car.  It was hard to breathe.  Less than a minute after getting out the car exploded.  My older daughter fainted.  The ambulance took her away, her back was broken.  My younger daughter was ok and my husband ok.   I was bruised, had whiplash, difficulty breathing, but OK.  

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We are all OK now.  We got very very lucky.  

I share this story to remind everyone to be mindful and wear your seatbelt.  Too many people too often do not wear seatbelts in cities or quick taxi rides.  Had we not used seatbelts that day, we would of ended up with our luggage, below the overpass.  A very kind homeless man living under the overpass actually returned all our belongings to us in the midst of all the chaos.  I wish I could have thanked him but it was a bit of a blur.  

I also share this story to point out that too often people drive on autopilot.  I believe being early in the a.m., with not too many cars on the road, my driver was moseying along, at only 50 mph, but kind of just looking ahead.  Not mindful enough of all that was around us and approaching from behind at 80 mph swerving in and out of lanes.  We all know those kinds of drivers.  It is not cool to speed, cut off cars and swerve in and out of lanes.  That is wreckless.  But I still see this kind of driving on the parkways all too often.  And thus, as drivers, we must be mindful not to drive on autopilot.   Be aware of your surroundings at all times.

Mindfulness, being in the present moment, is the safest way to drive.  Of course I am not talking about meditation but being aware of your senses such as what you see and what you hear.  Most people often admit to arriving at their destinations having no memory of actually driving there because their mind was not present while driving.  Drivers get lost in talking to their passengers, on their Bluetooth, listening to music or just lost in thought.  It is truly important to keep your focus on the road and the experience of driving rather than engaging in distracting activities.  Allow extra time to get to your destinations and be mindful to use your rear view mirrors.  I hope this serves as a reminder to be mindful.  

For information about seatbelt safety go to

Shari LaRosa, licensed social worker, has her Masters in Social Work from Monmouth University, and a Bachelors and Masters in Education from Boston University, and Hunter College.  Shari, a busy mom, lives in Holmdel with her husband Adam and two teenage daughters.  She has fostered friendships and learning among women in the area through her group The W Forum which focused on many topics relevant to women, parenting and relationships. Most recently working as a clinician for adolescents, she maintains her passion for helping others.



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