This evening, WSB-TV ran a prime time special on texting and driving. My daughter, Jennifer, was one of the people interviewed for the program, due to her life-changing injuries and road to recovery as a victim of a distracted driver. Did you know that more people in Georgia are injured or killed by a distracted driver than a drunk driver? And, yet, Caleb’s Law, which prohibits texting and driving in Georgia, has been on the books since June 2010. According to the Centers for Disease Control, nine people die in a distracted driving-related accident every day, and more than 1,000 are injured.
Three days after announcing their engagement last October, Jennifer and her fiancé, Jaime, both 23, were driving up 400 on their way to the Outlet Mall. They came upon stopped traffic so Jennifer slowed her small SUV to a crawl. Behind her, a young woman never even braked as she slammed into their parked SUV at 55 miles per hour. Thankfully, Jennifer swerved to the shoulder of the road and avoided running into the car in front of her, which kept the accident from being more serious than it was. When the woman jumped out of her car, she apologized, said it was her fault, claiming she was distracted by her cell phone. Unfortunately, that information never made it to the police report.
We took them to the ER at Emory Hospital in John’s Creek and they were released. By the next day, Jennifer had pain in her neck from the whiplash, but also felt pain in her lower back, which only got worse as the weeks went on. By March, she was bedridden and we had to help her with all of life’s basic functions. She had back surgery to repair a herniated disk, but even with physical therapy, has been unable to walk on her own. The wedding we had been planning has been put on hold.
We have all been in the shoes of the distracted driver. I can’t tell you how many times before last October I could have been that young woman. Even today, I have to force myself to keep from searching in my bag for the impatient chirp of a phone call or text coming in. I have taken to silencing my cell phone before I start the car and, sometimes, I purposefully put my bag and cell phone in the trunk so I am not tempted to look at a text, or answer a phone call, while I am driving.
Because that text or call isn’t worth hurting or killing someone…or myself.
Jennifer continues with her three-times-a-week physical therapy, determined to walk down the aisle at her wedding without the walker. I pray every day that her dream will come true.
I hope you will join us in sharing her story to your family and friends.