BURLINGTON, Vt. – The University of Vermont Medical Center’s ‘TXT U L8R’ program wants to deliver a clear message to Vermont teens – distracted driving can have permanent consequences.
At a prevention program Wednesday evening, driver’s education students attempted texting and driving on a simulator, watched a re-enactment of an emergency room visit, and listened to two speakers who had their lives changed forever by distracted driving.
“To see the stories of people who had lost a family member or had their lives really messed up… This has definitely been the most influential thing I’ve learned throughout this course,” said Chloe Silverman, a driver’s education student.
Abby Beerman, who directs the program and works as UVM Medical Center’s injury prevention coordinator, said many of today’s teens have grown up watching adults text and drive. She said changing their perception of the dangers behind distracted driving is crucial.
“We have to unteach that and show them that these are the dangers that are with it, these are the side effects that we see as a Trauma 1 Center,” Beerman said. “People’s lives are changed forever because of four seconds of someone texting and driving.”
To emphasize these impacts, UVM Medical Center invited Joe Levitan, who lost his sister after she was killed by a distracted driver on a cross-country bike trip.
“You do not want to lose a sister, you do not want to lose a friend or daughter to something that is preventable,” Levitan said. “You don’t want to see your sister on her deathbed.”
Colchester resident Debbie Drewniak also spoke. She suffered devastating injuries in 2011 after being hit by a teen driver who was texting. Her dog was also killed in the crash.
“I have lost a lot,” Drewniak said. “I lost my dog, my job, my car, my social life. I have lost my independence. When your car is on, turn your cell phone off. The distractions are just not worth it.”
On Thursday, representatives from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, Vermont State Police and local law enforcement will hold a press conference at Shelburne Museum to launch the new ‘Connect to Disconnect’ campaign aimed at stopping distracted driving.