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Survivor of Distracted Driving Crash Speaks to Dangers of Texting and Driving

KENT COUNTY, Mich. (Feb. 26, 2014) – “I think that I had a guardian angel that morning,” said April Christensen, a distracted driving crash survivor.

April was almost killed in a distracted driving crash on her way to work in Caledonia about seven years ago.

“I saw two lights come across the center lane. That’s all I’d seen,” said April.

What was left of her car that morning is hard to look at.

“I don’t know if it was ribs on this side or this side that were all broken, bruised. My hip got popped out of the socket. My spleen got bruised, two vertebra in my lower back; I think that’s all I had. My elbow got dislocated,” said April.

April still has days where it’s painful to walk, but says she’s come a long way.

The Kent County Sheriff’s Department says the driver, a 28-year-old man from Grand Rapids, died. After he crossed the center line and struck April’s car, deputies found him in his truck with a CD in his hand.

“I’m terrified driving today,” said April.

According to Distraction.gov, in 2012 distracted driving injured 421,000 and killed 3,328 people; 18 percent of these deaths were caused by cell phone use.

“Distracted driving is a much broader issue: it includes eating, drinking, reaching around to hand something to a child in the backseat, inserting CD’s into the CD player. If you look at the distracted driving crash problem, actually a very smart percentage of it is associated with cell phones, either dialing or conversations or texting,” explained Jim Sayer, research scientist with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute.

Texting is one of many distractions behind the wheel, but research shows it’s the most dangerous because it distracts drivers visually, manually and mentally.

“The average text takes 4.5 seconds, and at 55 miles an hour, that’s like driving across the length of an entire football field blind-folded,” said Captain Kevin Kelley, with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department.

Some are hoping that smartphone apps can stop drivers from texting. Three popular Android apps include AT&T’s “Drivemode,” Sprint’s “Drive First,” and Verizon’s “Safely Go.” These apps block texts, send back an automatic reply to incoming calls and texts, and allow a small number of callers to come through.

However, Consumer Reports says even though these apps are a step in the right direction, they still need to be better developed, recommending that they turn on automatically at 10 miles per hour.

“I think that any time you’ve got a device in your hand, and you’re trying to access that device, it’s probably not a good strategy when you’re driving down the road,” said Captain Kelley.

On Fox 17’s Facebook we asked viewers if they thought texting and driving apps would help. The most “liked” comment reads, “Why do you need an app to do something that’s as easy as setting your phone down and paying attention to the road in front of you?”

For iPhone users, designer Joey Cofone developed the concept “Car Mode”: it would be part of the iPhone’s operating system and save all incoming texts, calls and emails for later, then automatically respond saying your phone is on car mode.  “Car Mode” would automatically turn on when your phone connects to your car’s Bluetooth. If you don’t have Bluetooth, you this drawing shows you could still select car mode as well.

For now, iPhone users can go to settings and select “do not disturb” when they are driving.

April says she doesn’t want anyone to experience what’s she’s gone through. She and her husband, Scott Christensen, leave you with one last reminder to put your phone down and save a life.

“Just keep your eyes on the road, and if you do have a phone, turn it off,” asked April.

“You only live once,” said Scott.

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