CROWN POINT, IND. – John Zaboyan was drenched by rain as he walked alone along route 231 in South Lake County.
“I love the experience so far, except it is coming down in buckets,” he said during a torrential downpour.
Zaboyan, 79, left his Crown Point home early one recent morning, heading alone on foot for Indianapolis. He’s been planning to take this walking crusade to Indiana’s state capital for weeks — to protest distracted driving, his mission for the past two years.
“The only method to make noise with elected officials in Indianapolis is taking that first step toward Indianapolis,” Zaboyan said. “It is the only way for an average person to get a moment of an elected official’s time.”
Zaboyan wore a bright yellow poncho stating, “Simple! It is the law!” on one side; on the other side, a message about how he believes motorists should drive every single time they get into their vehicle:
“The way you drove the day you took your driving test.”
In other words, not under the influence. Not while texting. Not while smoking or drinking or eating.
Otherwise, he said, moving vehicles turn into “speeding bullets.”
He doesn’t do it for the money. Any donations go toward a fundraising page for the five surviving children of a Portage couple who were struck and killed by an alleged drunken driver while riding on their motorcycle last month.
“Those poor orphans,” said Zaboyan, who launched Students Against All Distracted Driving, or SAADD, in 2017.
“My only mission is to prevent further innocent carnage happening on our Indiana roads,” he said. “The only crowd that may be sympathetic to my efforts are the losers of loved ones.”
Zaboyan is an Armenian who emigrated from Lebanon to become a successful entrepreneur in the wristwatch industry. He is upset with Americans who routinely, and casually, use their cellphone while behind the wheel.
“A car is not an office, not a restaurant, and not a social gathering place,” Zaboyan said. “No one should have to wind up on a stretcher due to someone else’s irresponsibility or carelessness.”
His attempts to raise awareness haven’t been as successful as he had hoped, so he planned this solo walk to Indy.
“I have winged things all my life,” he said. “Start first, then confront myself at every step to do beyond my best. It is going to be fun.”
He continued to walk. But after getting soaked from vehicles splashing him with roadside rain puddles, Zaboyan decided to pause until the next morning.
His wife picked him up, then dropped him off the next day at the exact spot he had last walked, near Hebron.
His optimism rose with the sun.
“One of the most glorious mornings of my life,” he said, continuing his walk toward Indy.
That night, after walking 21 miles, his wife again picked him up, this time near Rensselaer. He hoped to continue again the next morning.
“I have to stop, to keep some sanity in my married life,” he wrote to a reporter who was following his journey.
He said he had mixed feelings. His crusade had caused his wife a lot of anxiety for his safety. He also admitted feeling endangered while walking along a route with no pedestrian walkways.
“I feel so empty inside,” he said. He shouldn’t. He took action to back up his words, something too many of us fail to do.