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Distracted driving victim shares her story with Lisbon students

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A cell phone killed Jacy M. Good’s parents on the day she graduated from college.

Her graduation day from Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Pa., in 2008 should have been among the happiest of her life. It ended in tragedy when her parents, Jay and Jean, were killed and she was left partially paralyzed following an accident caused by an 18-year-old driver talking on a cell phone.

At an assembly in front of students at Lisbon Central School Thursday, Ms. Good recounted some of the details from her life-altering accident with help from her fiancÚ, Steve Johnson. In short video clips, Mr. Johnson described how on their way home a dairy truck which had just picked up 30 tons of milk crashed head-on with the Goods’ family car after swerving to avoid a high school student who was talking on his cell phone and ran a red light.

She said it took her years to recover from several broken bones, a shattered pelvis, a collapsed lung, and a traumatic brain injury which still affects her ability to use her left arm and lower leg, as well as some minor cognitive issues. She invited students “to put themselves in her shoes” and in the mind of the high school student, who was a month away from his own high school graduation.

“We are all guilty of it,” Ms. Good said. “But what we have to remember is that this is all preventable. Think about that kid, that 18-year-old kid. Could you go to school on Monday or live the rest of your life knowing you took someone else’s because you were distracted by a text or a phone call that meant nothing?”

Her message affected students.

“I thought it was amazing and very courageous for her to come and share her story, especially considering everything she has been through,” senior Megan E. Barney said after the assembly. “She is living proof this is something that can really happen.”

“I really liked how she took a positive outlook,” Leeann Dawley, a senior, said after the assembly. “She could have let it ruin her life, but she didn’t. It is so inspirational. It shows how we all get caught up in the little things, but she had something so tremendous happen in her life and she keeps going.”

Ms. Good, who has spoken at over 160 different schools, colleges and companies in 23 different states, said the talk is always difficult.

“But I need to do it,” she said. “Because whatever that young man was talking about was not more important than my parents’ lives. The lives of these students here are more important than that, too. And if one student — even a teacher — changes their mind about using the cell phone while driving, then it is worth it.”

Mary S. Davison of the St. Lawrence County Traffic Safety Program said she invited Ms. Good to speak in Lisbon because distracted driving is even more dangerous in rural areas. Ms. Good also led assemblies in Potsdam, Edwards-Knox and Hammond central schools.

“Studies attribute about 10 percent of accidents to distracted driving, but that is only known and reported cases,” Ms. Davison said. “It’s very underreported, so we don’t know the full extent of it. No one is going to tell the cop they were on the cell phone, and many people don’t consider being on the cell phone as distracting. But we know about 65 percent of accidents in the county are single-vehicle crashes, which points to driver error,” Ms. Davison said.

Nationally, distracted driving kills 5,500 people a year, Ms. Good said.

State police Trooper James P. Bertram reminded students that texting or operating any electronic device — even listening to an iPod with headphones — while driving is illegal.

A ticket for operating a cell phone while driving in St. Lawrence County costs $85 court surcharge and a fine ranging from $20 to $500, Mr. Bertram said.

“Every moving violation can incur at least two points on your license,” he said.

Ms. Good has worked with lawmakers in Pennsylvania and New York, and she continues to work with legislation in other states.

“There are still nine states that don’t have laws even in against texting and driving,” she said. Ms. Good said. “Many politicians say they want to preserve the lives of their constituents. Which is all well and good until you put someone else’s life at risk.”

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