Gonzalo Aranguiz’s family left Santiago, Chile, to come to California for a better life. They worked hard, as a team, supporting one another in all that they did, and motivating each other to work harder. Gonzalo took on lots of responsibility—he wanted to. He wanted to do anything he could to help make their lives easier on a daily basis, as well as work towards transforming their future.
Not speaking one word of English when he first moved to the states, Gonzalo’s dedication to his studies eventually paid off; he was accepted to one of the best engineering universities on the West Coast. Understanding the significance of this acceptance, the family made the decision to sell the house, sacrificing their own comfort to pay for Gonzalo and his brothers to get the best possible education. Everything they did was for the good of the family, so when Gonzalo began learning to drive, it was with the expectation that this too would improve their overall quality of life. Little by little, his dad taught him the rules of the road, and soon enough, he was driving his mom to and from work, and his brothers to and from school.
On February 28th, 2013, Gonzalo was heading to work after his morning class, his mind buzzing with everything on the day’s agenda. He wasn’t late so he wasn’t rushing—he was just a little distracted. He picked up his phone to change the music, but it slipped out of his hand. Instinctively, he reached to pick it up with one hand while keeping the other on the wheel. With his eyes now off the road, though, he jerked the wheel. The car veered slightly, and suddenly Gonzalo felt an impact.
It does not matter how innocuous an act may seem, in the context of driving it can quickly become lethal. Gonzalo made the choice to first grab for his phone to try to change the music, and then to reach for it once it had fallen. Because of these simple decisions, he failed to see the cyclist, swerved slightly and hit and killed Ivan.
Gonzalo will live the rest of his life with the knowledge that he hurt Ivan’s family in the worst way imaginable; he killed Ivan. Ivan was robbed of his future, and his parents were left to bury his body and live only with his memory.
Gonzalo’s story acts as the ultimate reminder about how quickly the car can become a weapon if we do not invest 100% of our attention to the task of driving. It does not matter whether you are a compassionate person who would never intentionally hurt someone else, because the reality is that it is the outcome of driving distracted, not the intention, that causes the lasting pain.