Most teens who drive distracted have this perception that they are experts. That driving while texting, using social media, or while impaired – a form of cognitive distraction – is not dangerous and that they will never experience a crash resulting in death or even serious injuries.
On April 12, 2014, as I was coming back from a state Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), leadership conference our school vehicle was hit head on by an impaired driver.
I was airlifted to a hospital due to major injuries, including a traumatic brain injury (TBI), facial fractures, foot fractures and burst fractures in my lower back. These injuries were so severe, I was told I might never walk again. However, I had a choice: to get bitter or to get better.
I had to re-learn how to walk and read. As my condition continued to improve, I thought about the millions of innocent people who weren’t as lucky – the people who would suffer what I went through or worse. I knew I had to share my story to make a change.
Because of this crash, I will never be the same. I changed mentally, physically and emotionally. Today, I am passionate about youth traffic safety. I talk openly about the consequences of our choices on the road, such as choosing to drive while impaired or distracted by things like texting, eating and drinking, or even adjusting the radio. Every decision made on the road can have a positive or negative effect on yourself and others.
Getting a license is one of the most exciting times of a teenager’s life! It is the first step to having freedom, but new drivers must understand that driving is a privilege, not a right. I stand today as a TBI survivor because someone made the wrong decision on the road. Now I want to help others make the right decision.
I encourage parents to instill in their teens the understanding that death is not the only effect of a traffic crash. I am a prime example of someone who has to live with life-long results of someone else not driving safely for themselves and others on the road. Remember: the lessons you share with your teen will do more than protect him or her, they will help keep everyone else on the roads safe.