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NEW BREMEN — Jacy Good was with her parents, coming home after her college graduation on a stretch of easy-to-drive road outside Redding, Pa., when she stopped at a gas station, and remembers deciding not to get coffee because she planned to nap later.
That’s the last thing she remembers for more than three months.
A few miles down the road, a distracted driver talking on the phone didn’t see her and her family’s vehicle or the 30-ton milk truck also involved in the accident that killed her parents.
Luckily, a grocery store owner nearby happened to be a trained EMT, and helped save her life at the scene. Luckily, a recently-installed trauma center was minutes away at a nearby hospital with the equipment and surgeons needed to get her through the night.
Luckily she survived, albeit with extensive brain and physical injuries.
Post-recovery, Good has fought for years to try to pass legislation to outlaw phone use while driving in Pennsylvania.
She now focuses on changing minds about distracted driving one person at a time in a public speaking campaign she brought to Auglaize County Tuesday and will continue Wednesday.
New Bremen EMS services hosted the event that is expected to reach 3,000 students with school assemblies in New Knoxville, New Bremen, St. Marys and Celina. Good’s story has brought her to the United Nations, put her on Oprah, among other venues to raise awareness.
While Good survived the event, regained her memory, and now lives a relatively normal life in New York, she can not move the left side of her face or arm.
The veteran driver of the truck, who only ever drove a truck and only ever wanted to be a truck driver, she said, five years later still cannot drive after the horror of the event. The distracted driver denied any wrongdoing.
“I have to hope my parents didn’t suffer,” Good said, adding that her mother might have also been alive if she’d been wearing her seat belt as Good and her father were.
Good’s brother had to go through the experience of planning his parents’ funerals at age 18.
“I’m always glad I was the one in the coma,” she said.
Good pointed out the difference between the brain activity of a person talking on the phone, as reflected in an MRI, versus the MRI of a person who is talking while driving using a hands-free device.
The problem is not dialing, and using a hands-free device doesn’t solve the problem, she said.
The problem is that the brain isn’t very good at multi-tasking, and isn’t paying attention to the road.
She calls this “cognitive distraction,” and said that cell phone companies are spreading a myth that a driver whose hands are on the wheel isn’t distracted.
That’s untrue, Good said.
“You don’t see up to 50 percent of what’s in front of you,” she said. “It’s going on in the brain. Talking on the phone and driving is like drinking and driving.”
Good asked each person to drive aware and conscious by putting their cell phones away when driving, even putting them in the glovebox or adding something to their phone message letting people know that the reason you aren’t answering is you don’t talk and drive.
“You have a responsibility to keep your parents in line,” she told young people.
While a person can never know if they saved a life by not talking and driving, she said 15 people per day die in accidents that are related to distracted driving. One in four crashes are related to cell phone usage she said.
“When you’re behind the wheel, be purposeful, conscious and aware,” Good said. “Because one thing you can count on is other people making a mistake.”
More information about Good is available at HangUpAndDrive.com. More information about distracted driving is available at FocusDriven.org.