Hang up and drive

ANGOLA – “Hang up and drive” was the message for Lake Shore High School students Thursday. Distracted driving survivor Jacy Good presented her story to about 850 students in the auditorium.

Good grew up in a small Amish community in Pennsylvania and said she was a bit of a self-proclaimed nerd in high school. Good said she believed if she worked hard in high school and received good grades, she would get into a good college. She went to Allentown, Pa., to attend Muhlenberg College, about a 90-minute drive from her parents. It was at college she met her now husband, Steve Johnson.

On Good’s graduation day in 2008, she and her family were driving home from Allentown. Good and her parents had stopped at a gas station at 4 p.m. and shortly after leaving that gas station were involved in a three-vehicle accident.

Good later found out after the accident, her father was driving south on the highway and had a green light at an upcoming intersection; a tractor trailer was traveling north and also had the green light. A teenage driver who was on his cell phone ran the red light at the intersecting street. The truck swerved to miss the teenager’s vehicle but couldn’t get out of the way in time and hit Good’s family vehicle head on. Good said the truck driver could have swerved right and gone into a corn field. The teenager was using his cell phone on speaker and had both hands on the wheel, which Good said many people believe is the “safe way.” Both of Good’s parents were killed instantly. Good said she does not remember the two months following the accident.

“The 18-year-old senior was probably a good kid. He was on his way to visit friends from church camp,” Good said.

A volunteer paramedic lived at the intersection where the accident occurred and he came to the scene and saved her life. Her mother who was seated in the rear passenger seat was not wearing her seatbelt. Good said she had not put it on after the stop at the gas station. She urged the students not to make that fatal mistake of not wearing a seatbelt. The nearest hospital was also a trauma hospital where Good was in surgery for eight and a half hours and only had a 10 percent chance of making it through the first night. She suffered a traumatic brain injury, several broken bones and lost all function on her left side. She said the hospital calls her case a “miracle.”

Johnson, who was a part of Good’s presentation by video, was constantly texting and calling Good to ensure she got home OK and received a phone call around 6 p.m. that night. The phone call was from a chaplain at a hospital in Reading, Pa., saying that Good and her parents had been in the accident.

Johnson recalls answering questions about Good who he knew was unable to answer them herself. Good’s brother finally called Johnson to tell him she was alive. Following the accident, Good spent just over four months in the hospital and rehab recovering. She spent the next two years recovering in therapy.

“What happened to me, happens every day and it never needs to happen again,” she said.

Since the accident which immobilized her left wrist and toes, Good has worked with local politicians and the organization, Hang Up and Drive, to promote awareness of distracted driving and lobby for stricter laws around the country. At the time of her accident, there were no laws on cell phone use while driving in Pennsylvania. In recent years, Pennsylvania has made it illegal to text while driving.

The presentation was brought to Lake Shore High School by the Seneca Nation of Indians, in connection with FocusDriven and Safe NY. All presentations were given at schools located near the SNI. Good also spoke at Silver Creek school on Thursday and will speak at Gowanda and Salamanca schools today. Mike Gates of the SNI emergency services department, said he has seen distracted driving accidents numerous times. He also said several of his friends died due to distracted driving when he was in high school.

“We all know that talking on our cell phones while driving is distracting, but that doesn’t stop most people from doing it,” said President Barry E. Snyder, Sr. in a press release. “This effort is intended to educate our communities and young people about the dangers of cell phone use and other distractions while driving. We hope that once people see the statistics and realize the danger involved, they will change their driving habits to help protect themselves, their families, and others on the road.”

Lake Shore Principal Julie Hoerner said the presentation was powerful and moving for everyone. Good’s presentation makes you stop and reflect upon your life, she said.

“It makes you really stop and think,” said Hoerner. “I hope (students) stop and reflect.”

For more information, visit www.hangupanddrive.com. For more information on Safe NY, visit www.safeny.ny.gov.

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