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Students hear first hand dangers of distracted driving from a victim

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DEKALB - Instead of celebrating, Jacy M. Good spent her college graduation day struggling for her life in a trauma hospital following a head-on cash that killed both her parents on a Pennsylvania highway and left her with a crushed pelvis and other injuries.

That was six years ago, but Ms. Good, 27, wants to make sure her story is not forgotten so others can avoid the tragedy she endured.

The White Plains resident has made a career of traveling to high schools and colleges across the nation in hopes that her personal story will make teens and young adults think twice about using a cell phone while they’re driving. She also advocates for tougher distracted driving laws and shares information on her website: www.hangupanddrive.com

“It still hurts too much to be true,” Ms. Good told students in grades 7 to 12 who gathered Thursday morning in the Hermon-DeKalb auditorium. “This story absolutely needs to be told. This destroyed my family, cut my family in half.”

Later in the day she gave the 45-minute presentation to students at Ogdensburg Free Academy.

Ms. Good explained that her family was on their way home from her graduation from Muhlenberg College, Allentwon, Pa., May 18, 2008 when they were hit head-on by an 18-wheeler truck that swerved into their lane after an 18-year-old driver ran a red light at an intersection. She said the teen driver was using a hands-free device to talk on the speaker cetting of his cell phone. He apparently became distracted and didn’t notice the red light.

“For that millisecond he wasn’t thinking about driving,” Ms. Good told students. “He swerved across the double line. My family was at the wrong place at the wrong time that afternoon.”

After spending three months in the hospital and undergoing painful rehabilitation, Ms. Good said she returned to her parent’s home and tried to make sense of the ordeal.

Based on her Internet research, she discovered brain studies showing how distracted driving, including conversations, negatively impact a person’s driving performance. She pointed to studies, including one conducted by Carnegie Mellon University, showing cognitive impairments resulting from cell phone use.

“When you’re driving, you’re already multi-tasking,” Ms. Good told students. “There is no safe way to use a phone. I love my phone. I live on my phone, but I don’t love it more than my own life.”

Although she’s made great physical progress, Ms. Good’s brain injury left her partially paralyzed and unable to use her left arm. She is able to drive with a modified vehicle that has a special steering device.

Ms. Good was accompanied to her presentations by Mary S. Davison, St. Lawrence County’s traffic information specialist. While laws are on the books prohibiting texting, Ms. Davison noted that other forms of distracted driving, even just speaking on a hands-free device, can also be dangerous.

“Distracted driving is an under estimated epidemic. We get statistics every year, but incidents are under reported,” Ms. Davison said.

Hermon-DeKalb School Superintendent Ann M. Adams said the presentation was valuable.

“I think it’s important for students to hear the message about cell phone use from someone outside of the school setting who they can relate to,” Ms. Adams said.

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