It was dark, around 6 p.m. on Dec. 20, 2017, when Kacie Anderson pulled up to a stop light at the intersection of Md. 27 and Md. 482/Hampstead Mexico Road.
A Carroll County native and Winters Mill High School graduate, Anderson was a club lacrosse coach — she had just accepted a new job — and a new mom — her 9-month-old son Parker in the back seat. Anderson had the usual end-of-day domestic thoughts running through her head as she traveled to her home just over the state line in Hanover, Pennsylvania.
"I was sitting in the car, spacing out, thinking what am I going to get done for dinner, I've got to send a coaching plan, all this stuff," she said. "Then all of a sudden out of nowhere we get pummeled from behind."
An impaired driver, police would later determine, had struck the vehicle behind Anderson's, which then slammed into her Nissan Rogue.
"It happened so quick. I actually lost my vision for about 60 seconds. I couldn't see anything, but I could hear everything," she said. "All I could hear was Parker screaming. So of course I am panicking."
What should she do? Call for help? But where was her phone? It had been in Parker's diaper pack, Anderson said, the bag that, like everything else in the car, went airborne on impact, and she felt around in the dark, hoping to feel the device.
"I felt around and my hand hit my Apple Watch. And I was like, 'oh my gosh, my watch!'" she said. "I used my watch on the crown and called Siri and so Siri actually called 911 for me."
Anderson had recently bought the watch because of a heart condition and the watch's heart monitoring capabilities, but she said she couldn't have imagined she would use it to call the police for help while blinded in a car accident.
"They were there within minutes, they were so quick," she said.
Maryland State Trooper Derek Eckhardt was the officer that responded to that Siri-mediated 911 call.
"Because she had the baby, I went to her car first. She seemed confused and dazed, out of it," he said of that December night in 2017. "I told her, "Yes, your son is OK, he's in the back seat. We will take care of him, too, don't worry, we'll get you taken care of."
Eckhardt said in an interview that he had not been aware that Anderson had called for help using her watch, but "that's pretty cool, actually."
"I personally wear an Apple Watch. I'll tell you it's definitely a nice thing to have knowing that if I were to get into a collision, my phone that is sitting in my cup holder or the center console in my police car is not going to be there when the collision is over," he said.
Any smart watch that can connect by Bluetooth to a smart phone could be a useful tool in an emergency, Eckhardt said, especially in the event of an accident on one of the less traveled back roads of Carroll County.
"If it's a single-vehicle collision and you go through the wood line where you can't be seen and no one observed your car leave the roadway, without being able to contact 911, no one knows you're there," he said, noting that a watch that can call for help "would be very, very helpful. Plus with smart phones these days, the GPS capabilities for 911 has become a lot better. It doesn't pinpoint your location, but it can give us a general idea where you are located."
In Anderson's case, she and her son were located quickly and taken to the hospital, with troubling, but not immediately life-threatening, injuries.
"Parker had bruising on this face, his legs were scratched up," she said. "I was diagnosed with pineal center cyst, a benign tumor, two days before the accident, so the biggest concern was my brain swelling with the cyst and where it is located."
Almost six months into their recovery, Anderson was contacted by Apple. She had written Apple CEO Tim Cook a letter, thanking him for the product that she used to call for help, and Apple wanted to know if she would be willing to let them tell her story in a commercial. In June, she flew out to California.
Winters Mill High School Grad, Kacie Fogle Anderson and her son were hit by a drunk driver in December and she used her Apple Watch to save them! She is now the new face of Apple Watch!
"We went out and filmed it. It was awesome," she said. "They even bought the same Rogue that I had, same color, same year, just for the documentary. They made it exactly how it was."
Apple declined to comment for this story, but the ad featuring Anderson and several other people who used their watches in close brushes with tragedy can be found online at www.apple.com.
But technology aside, Eckhardt said that the best way to stay safe on the road really comes down to being an attentive and responsible driver, especially around the holidays.
"It's not just a typical Friday night where people are going out to bars," he said. "People are flying in from other states with their kids to visit family members and there are a lot more people on the roadways. There's a lot more chances for something bad to take place."
Don't drink and drive, drive sober or get pulled over, all those PSAs apply, Eckardt said, but people should remember that it's not just about keeping your blood alcohol content below .08.
"A designated driver isn't one that has had less drinks than everybody else, a sober driver is one that has had no alcohol and can drive anyone who has been drinking," he said.
Moreover, depending on your physiology, you can be an impaired driver with a legal limit of alcohol, or, according to Eckhardt, no alcohol. The driver who hit Anderson, it turns out, had not been drinking.
"I suspected he was under the influence of some sort of medication," Eckhardt said. "People don't think about their medications and how they can alter their mental capacities, especially if they are having an off day. Your medication says to take with food and don't drive for two hours, it says that for a reason."
That driver was arrested and charged with DWI, Eckhardt said, noting that you are still liable for driving while impaired even if it's a legal prescription.
"You are legally allowed to be using this prescription from your doctor, You still have to use your correct judgment whether you believe you should be driving a vehicle or not," he said. "If you have to ask yourself, 'am I OK to drive vehicle right now?' You're probably not."
As for Anderson and her son, they are both still recovering in some ways, with Parker dealing with some cognitive delays, she said, and her own follow-ups to make sure the benign cyst is OK.
Most of all, Anderson said she is working to get her life back together and pick up where things left off, especially when it comes to coaching lacrosse.
"I had just accepted a job offer at Gerstell [Academy] for lacrosse and then I was hit," she said. "After that I was in and out of the hospital, we were coming up on preseason and fall ball and I actually had to decline it. I was so upset about it. So I am hoping this year I will be back out there."