Beaufort County family lives with distracted driving consequences

By  | 

As fast as 18-year-old Sarah Edwards looked down to read a text message while behind the wheel her life ended.

Edwards was headed to an after-school job in 2011, but she never made it. Troopers say Edwards, distracted by her cell phone, turned into a curve on Chandler Road in Chocowinity and slammed into a log truck.

Tracey O'Carroll, Edwards' mother, said, "The last thing that she was reading was, 'this sucks I don't know what to do without you, i'm in love with you.'"

O'Carroll says her daughter's decision to take her eyes off the road pains her family to this day. "Why would you do that? Why did you do that? I would ask her was it really that important?" O'Carroll said.

Students at East Carolina University said their gadget is like another appendage. Lindsay Wallace said, "I think especially with our generation, we've become especially dependent on our cell phones and it's hard to put them down." Wallace says she's seen friends drive while texting.

In fact, a Pew Research study shows 40 percent of teens say they have been in a car when the driver used a cell phone in a way that put themselves or others in danger. Another study says one in three teenagers say they have texted while driving.

Dr. Herbert Garrison with the Eastern Carolina Injury Prevention Program says our cell phone can become an addiction. "When you look at your phone your brain gets stimulated, that there are chemicals that get released from the brain like when you're gaming or gambling or when you smoke a cigarette, those same addictive chemicals get released," Garrison said.

Dr. Garrison says it takes just 5 seconds to look at a text and in those 5 seconds, a driver can travel 100 yards, or the length of a football field, in a car without knowing exactly where they went.

"I can't blame the person that sent it to her because Sarah chose to look at that text message," O'Carroll said,

O'Carroll speaks to teenagers across the country to tell her daughter's story to persuade them not to text and drive.