The price of texting and driving

Colchester woman tells her story as part of “Txt u L8r” campaign

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By Colin Flanders
For The Colchester Sun

Texting while driving is a deliberate act that can have dire consequences, Colchester’s Debbie Drewniak told a crowd of more than 80 at the UVM College of Medicine last week.

Drewniak was permanently disabled when a teenage driver who was texting hit her as she was walking her dog in August 2011.

Her speech on June 24 was part of the UVM Medical Center’s “Txt u L8r” campaign, presented in advance of new texting laws that went into effect July 1.

A teen tries simulated texting and driving during a “Txt u L8r” campaign event presented by UVM Medical Center and the UVM College of Medicine Clinical Simulation Laboratory. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

A teen tries simulated texting and driving during a “Txt u L8r” campaign event presented by UVM Medical Center and the UVM College of Medicine Clinical Simulation Laboratory.
PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Sponsored by the UVM Medical Center and the UVM College of Medicine Clinical Simulation Laboratory, the program is aimed at raising awareness of the dangers texting while driving poses.

“This was no accident,” Drewniak said of the crash that changed her life, calling texting and driving an “intentional” and “deliberate” act.

Drewniak read from a prepared speech—her voice strained—a lingering effect from her injuries. Yet the fact she was even speaking to the crowd at all showed progress; in previous programs, Drewniak’s sister had to read the speech for her.

“I read it aloud every day,” Drewniak said, a testament to her determination in spreading her message.

More than half the crowd consisted of 15- and 16-year-olds, quickly approaching the age where freedom appears in the form of a license. The program encouraged participation during various interactive portions, such as real-time polling and a texting and driving simulation, proactive attempts to instill safe driving habits early on.

The program also included a realistic trauma scenario presented by the medical school’s clinical simulation team, and highlighting numerous apps that allow parents to track their child’s phone usage in the car and send an automated response to text messages received while driving.

No texting in traffic as of July 1

The campaign carries increased urgency as July 1 marked the implementation of a ban on using handheld devices in traffic—an addition to last year’s law banning their use in moving vehicles.

Since the initial law went into effect on Oct. 1, 2014, 77 texting tickets and 64 warnings have been issued, according to Dr. Mario Trabulsy, who also spoke during the program. Additionally, 23 texting-related crashes have occurred.

The program ended with organizers stressing the importance of operating within these laws.

“Is a text or call worth your life or someone else’s?” the presentation screen read.