Ben Pohl: car crash survivor, motivational speaker, automotive student

Ben Pohl: car crash survivor, motivational speaker, automotive student

Caroline Broderick, Features Editor

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Ben Pohl saw himself as invincible. He was the self-proclaimed class clown in his small high school in Iowa of 250 students. He looks back at himself as having a life of luck. At the age of 17, Pohl’s luck ran out within seconds when he became a distracted driver and totaled his blue Volkswagen beetle, ending up in a coma for a month.

It was the Ides of March, Pohl’s own doomsday. His distraction came from his four other friends in the car, all with high spirits and headed to a party. His best friend, Tim Lewis, sat next to Pohl. They exchanged smiles and their lives changed forever. Lewis found a friend had been thrown out the back of the beetle’s window, and he later found Pohl drenched in his own blood and barely breathing.

Doctors were unsure whether or not Pohl would wake up from his coma. They weren’t sure if he could speak. They weren’t sure if he could carry on past 17 years. Six months after the incident, Pohl was discharged. To this day, at the age of 37, Pohl has daily reminders of his accident, living with a speech impediment and often unstable motor functions.

“Life is so interesting,” said Pohl. “How things happen, why they happen. It had to have happened. I came to the realization that things have to happen to people. I’m not religious, but God knows he gives things to those who can handle it. It’s made me a lot stronger.”

At the age of 17, Pohl’s life had almost been over, but he would not have had it any other way. Because of his incident, Pohl flipped his entire life around. He is now an automotive student at COD as well as a motivational speaker.

“If I wouldn’t have crashed, I was already going to be a lawyer,” said Pohl. “I had it all mapped out. I’d be a big shot lawyer in Downtown Chicago, my life would suck. I wouldn’t be happy. Now, I am very happy.”

Pohl’s accident pushed him to live a life dedicated to living and to helping. “I feel like I owe something back to society,” said Pohl. “If I can make sure that this does not happen to at least one person, it’d be worth it. Although my life now is awesome, what I’ve been through is crushing.”

Giving back to society to Pohl came in many ways. Turning far away from his goal to be a lawyer, Pohl went to school for recreational therapy and ended up working with violent sex offenders at Statesville Prison.

Pohl labels himself as somebody who gets “burned out” easily. Everything must be changing around him, he sees this originating from his accident. After his time at Statesville, Pohl joined the armed forces and went to Baghdad as a government reconstruction consultant.

The Peace Corps. were Pohl’s next project. He worked as a special education consultant in Jordan where he lived in a village of 1,000. The treatment of special education students left Pohl in awe. He worked in the village for a year, assisting in the development of new education systems, before leaving and coming home.

After all Pohl experienced, there had still been something missing. There was not one thing where he could not get bored. Life back in Ill. became his worst nightmare. Consulting jobs consumed his life, he could not find another adventure.

“Last year I had done a consulting job,” said Pohl. “I sat down, did a lot of thinking about my life and what I wanted to accomplish.”

Ironically, what Pohl’s dream was brought him back to the beginning: cars. His Volkswagon beetle was a passion project worked on by him and his father. Pohl recalls always loving cars, even if they were the very thing that almost ended his life.

In October, Pohl enrolled in COD’s automotive services department and chased his dream of changing his downfalls into inspiration. Out of everything he has done, he finds himself the happiest and most fulfilled today as a student.

Pohl travels the area sharing his distracted driving story to civic organizations, clubs and schools. Each presentation is individualized to its audience so that his struggles can be instilled into each listener, so he can save at least one person.

To read more about Pohl or book him for an event, go to