Those impacted by texting and driving share their story - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Those impacted by texting and driving share their story

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WATERLOO (KWWL) -

Each year thousands of Americans are killed from distracted driving and we know many of these crashes involve texting on cell phones.

Amazingly Jamie Nash survived a crash caused when she was texting and driving.

"I don't know who I was texting. I don't know what I was texting, but we do know that that was the cause," she said. 

The Texas girl still recovering from burns over 80 percent of her body has a message to share. She wears a plastic ring that reminds her to text later.

"This is a reminder on your thumb. It says text later. If you are distracted, it's gonna happen. It's not worth your life or somebody else's," Nash said.

Closer to home, a Saint Ansgar 17-year-old wasn't so fortunate.

This month police ruled Allison Smith died when texting led her to take her eyes off the road and rear end a school bus.

"It does three things: It takes your eyes off the road. It takes your hands off the road. And it takes your mind off the road. Any one of those three is a bad situation. When you combine all three, it's obviously very dangerous," said Pete Hjelmstad, with the Iowa Department of Transportation.

The Iowa DOT has tracked a 30-percent increase in crashes caused by distracted drivers in the past decade.  And now with a texting ban in Iowa and 34 other states, federal guidelines are calling for officials to single out accidents involving texting.

"It's very hard to prove that somebody was distracted by a cell phone or something else," Hjelmstad said.

Without a driver's admission or a witness, crashes involving cell phones are hard to prove.

Rita Jones trusts the word of her grandchildren.

In 2005, the Strawberry Point woman was taking them on an annual trip to Wisconsin Dells, but instead ended up in the emergency room when a distracted driver T-boned her car.

"She gets out of the car still talking on the cell phone. And I got the ticket and we went to court and that's what I told the judge. I go, 'She was on the cell phone. She had to have seen us sitting there. We couldn't move,'" she said.

Her then 10-year-old granddaughter, Hailee, ended up with thirty stitches when her seatbelt snapped and her head went through a backseat window.

"Grandma was in the driver's seat saying 'is everyone okay,' trying to get the airbag off of her. And I was like, 'Yeah, I'm fine,' and then everyone looked at me and they were like, 'No, you're not fine,'" she said.

Time and time again, studies show that distractions behind the wheel can have tragic results.  In fact, according to the Department of Transportation, you're 23 times more likely to crash when you're texting and driving.

KWWL is partnering with public officials and law enforcement to start an awareness campaign called TXT L8R. We're encouraging everyone to put down their phones while driving and make a commitment to text later. To make a public pledge and encourage your friends to do the same, visit www.KWWL.com/TXTL8R.

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