WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. – Since narrowly surviving an accident caused by a teen driver on a cellphone that took both of her parents' lives, Jacy Good has become an advocate to help change the culture of distracted driving.
The best way to change that culture is teaching teenagers how to become positive influences on their peers, Good told a group of teenagers Monday night at the White Plains Public Library.
Although some states have laws prohibiting talking or texting, or both, while driving, the number of fatal crashes involving distracted drivers, which a federal study shows totaled 3,092 in 2010, has continued to increase.
However, when in a car with a distracted driver, 78 percent of teens asked the driver to stop, and 84 percent of those who asked got the driver to stop, said Steve Mochel, owner of Fresh Green Light, a driving school in Rye and Greenwich, Conn.
"Being the person that says, 'Stop driving while texting,' is a good thing, and is the one thing that will probably change behaviors and attitudes," Mochel told teens at the library Monday.
Good graduated from college in May 2009, a day she described as the happiest of her life.
"I worked really, really hard in high school so I could go to college, and worked really, really hard in college to get my dream job, which was coming true," said Good, who had lined up a job with Habitat for Humanity in Brooklyn.
Halfway through the drive home to Lancaster, Pa., with her parents that day, an 18-year-old talking on his cellphone ran a red light, causing an 18-wheel truck with the right of way to swerve and crash into the Goods' car.
Her mother and father, who was driving, died on impact. Jacy Good suffered a traumatic brain injury and many broken bones, including her tibia, collarbone and pelvis. She fell into a coma.
"Doctors gave me a 10 percent chance of surviving that night," Good said.
She came out of the coma one month later, then returned home four months after that to realize her parents didn't make it.
"As my brain started to work, I kept reading and I kept coming back to that cellphone," Good said.
Driving while using a cell phone reduces the amount of brain activity associated with driving by 37 percent, according to a 2007 Carnegie Mellon University study. Another study out of the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute shows that texting while driving makes one 23 times more likely to crash. Despite this, 77 percent of young adult drivers say they are confident they can safely text while driving, Mochel said.
To become a positive influence, don't text and drive yourself, and tell your friends not to, Good said. Mobile phone applications, such as "Do Not Disturb," are available to silence any texts or calls for a designated period.
Good will return to the area April 4 to speak at Rye High School, then Rye Neck High School.
The "Friends Don't Let Friends Text and Drive" program at the library was paid for by a grant from The Allstate Foundation to the White Plains Library Foundation.