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Distracted Driving Scholarship Winner Ashley Franco

Distracted driving causes thousands of accidents each year. At the Law Office of Neil Burns we see firsthand the personal injuries that these motor vehicle collisions cause. Not only are the victims of the accidents but the family and members of the community are affected as well. Car accident lawyers nationwide are trying to raise awareness of these types of accidents. We hope by offering this scholarship we will raise awareness to the dangers of distracted driving.

We asked our applicants the following:

A. “Distracted Driving and Me.” A personal story about either yourself or a close family member that was affected by distracted driving.

B. “Distracted Driver Awareness Campaign.” A personal story about an awareness campaign you have personally organized or administrated.

C. “Why You Shouldn’t Text and Drive.” An article appealing to young drivers that conveys the message that distracted driving is dangerous.

The essay below is from one of our five finalists.

Distracted Driving and Me

Driving is a privilege. When you are of age to get your drivers license all of your problems seem to go away. No more asking mom or dad to take you to your friends, or begging your big sister to take you with her so you are not stuck at home. Driving is a huge deal to teens, until the smallest mistake, the smallest move could change your life for ever. March 13th, 2010, I remember the day so clear, but the moment the phone rang everything became blurry. My older sister had decided to go on a road trip with her three best friends. They were on their way to surf the coast of California, but somehow they only made it to Arizona. It was about seven o’clock in the morning, right when the sun was consuming the darkness of the night. It was blinding, the sun, so what else would you do but reach for your sunglasses? The smallest move possible, the slightest reach, the tinniest glance to look for his sunglasses, then the sudden instinct to correct the way he was driving. The driver could not find his sunglasses. Had they fallen? That was the case. They had slipped under his seat, and he needed them to see, so what else could he have done but reach to get them. He had finally retrieved them, but when he looked back up he had somehow steered the car slightly away from the road. It would have been fine if they were not going as fast as they were, but they were kids eager to get to their vacation spot, they were on the highway, so the speed limit was out of the question. He glanced up, and that is when his instinct kicked in. The car was off the road, what was there to do? How could he fix it? He panicked. The steering wheel jerked to the left as fast as it could, just so he could get back on the road. But because of the adrenaline that was racing through his blood he overcorrected the wheel too far. That is when it happened. One roll, two rolls, three rolls, and finally four. The car was noticeably totaled. It had rolled four times. The driver clinched the steering wheel with his full might, but little did he know that the passenger seat beside him was empty, the right back seat passenger was gone, but the girl sitting in the middle seat was still there, sleeping just like the rest of them had been doing before the car flipped. The car had ended up on its side. The driver managed to set himself free, which lead him to the horrifying discovery he was about to make. The girl in the middle seat was still in the car, tangled in lap belt, gasping for air. The driver took all of his strength to try and set her free but nothing was working. The seat belt was too tight, the window was rolled up, and he could not reach her. One punch to the window shattered it leaving a way to get her out. Nothing was working though, he pulled and pulled, but all he could do was hold her hand while she peacefully passed away. The next move he would make was to search for his buddy that was in the passenger seat, whom had been ejected from the car window. They were in the desert, mind you, so it was hot and he was panicked. The driver finally reached the whereabouts of his buddy, but he was too late, there was nothing he could have done. At this point there was one person left, one person he could help, the one person that meant the world to me. My sister. She had flown out the window because she was not wearing a seat belt. He heard her cries and got to her as fast as he could. He sat there and held her head in one arm and her hand in the other. He promised not to leave her side. Her condition was so extreme that the slightest movement, the slightest touch would send her into pain, unbearable pain. It was then, when he heard the sirens that he felt some reassurance. Police cars, ambulances, fire trucks, they were all there, and the driver was still holding onto my sister to help her stay calm. The helicopter finally came and loaded her in to take her to one of the best trauma hospitals in Las Vegas, that was the closest trauma center they could go to. That is when the phone rang. It was a normal morning in our house. My best friend and I had just woke up from a sleepover and were in the process of getting ready to go to volleyball practice, and that is when we heard the ear piercing scream. It was my mom. I ran to the stairs to see my step dad holding my mom as tears raced down her face and that is when I knew something had happened. All I heard was my sister’s name and I knew something was wrong, I could feel it in my heart. The idea that my best friend, my mentor, my idol, my big sister had been hurt killed me. I was in shock, so I continued my day like I would. I went to volleyball and began practice, but something did not feel right. I suddenly lost focus and collapsed to the floor crying. I got through practice and went home to find my mom had left on a flight to Las Vegas. My step dad looked at me with pain in his eyes, but managed no to cry because he was there for me. He could not let me see his pain. I was a kid, in seventh grade to be exact, I could not wrap my head around the whole thing. It was not until later that night that I heard the whole story. The news was playing on the television in the family room while I was nestled up on the couch staring into the distance, my mind was empty. I heard the news anchor say that all too familiar phrase, “Breaking News.” I glanced up and that is when it happened. The moment when my body went numb and I did not even realize how loud I was screaming until my step dad ran over to comfort me. There it was staring me straight in the face, my sister’s Facebook profile picture. I managed to settle down to hear what they had to say about the accident. I remember being mad at the fact that they only talked about it for a minute or so. I wanted more information, information that my parents would not tell me. As the week went on I got more information on the accident, what had happened, who had survived, and how long my sister was going to be in the hospital. One afternoon I came home after school to a swarm of news reports on my front porch. They turned around to see me and all came rushing towards me. I panicked and ran inside and locked the door. The tears that came from my face that day were out of anger. Anger that the reporters could not respect the fact that a traumatic event had just happened and my family needed space. The rest of the week was busy with two funerals and family coming and going. My sister had been in the ICU at Sunrise Medical Center for three weeks at this point. She had been having three operations per day for almost 4 weeks straight. Every bone below her collar bone had been broken in some way. She thankfully was not paralyzed, but she had crushed 4 vertebras so where would that leave her? She was recovering quicker than expected but was still in the ICU. Four months had gone by, four long months that included my birthday, Easter, my sister’s and my mom’s birthdays. Four months of being alone. Both of my parents were in Las Vegas by my sister’s beside where they should have been. I was only 13 at the time, but I was left with family. They had no words for me, they never knew what to say or how to make me feel better. In the third month I got to go see my sister, but I was more nervous then I had ever been. When I arrived my mom sat me down and told me what to expect. I disregarded most of the things she had told me because all I wanted to do was go see my big sister. Running into her hospital room, I was beyond excited to see her, but when I hit the door I stopped. I stopped and stared. That was not my sister. She had road rash and cuts and bruises all over, she was hardly recognizable. I only wanted to stay for a little while because I could not handle looking at her or knowing how much pain she was in. When the four months were up she came home. My aunt helped me make a banner to welcome her home and I could not wait to see her. They finally pulled up to the house in the trailer (she could not fly because she had to lay flat down due to her injuries.) The months after that were long as well. My grandmother came in from South Dakota so that my parents were able to go back to work, and so she could look out for my sister. Her last surgery was September 30th, 2015. That was when I knew it was over. No more depression, no more anxiety, no funerals or crying, no more stuffing gauze into my sister’s wounds. To this day I think about her best friend (the middle seat girl) every day, and how I should make choices to make her and my sister proud of me. Road trips are still terrifying, leaving my sister is even more terrifying. It is one of the most mind boggling things to think about though. How could one distraction, one small move result in a life changing event? Distracted driving is all over this world, and can be the worst thing that happens to a person. So I will end on a good note. My sister is healed. She is stronger then ever, running marathons, on the verge of getting married, and being the best role model she can be. Her best friend is by our sides everyday helping us get through the rough patches and being there for the little victories. As for the driver, he is okay. We see him every year at a memorial basketball camp that we hold for my sister’s best friend. He apologizes every time we see him, but I know that it was an accident that just happened to result in a terrible way. Do me a favor next time you get in your car, put your sunglasses in a spot that they won’t fall, put your phone away, do not eat or do makeup, just focus, focus on the road in front of you, because you never know when life can take a turn for the worst. Getting distracted while driving is terrifying, and no one wants to go through what my family and I went through. So seriously, put your sunglasses where you can see them. Do this for your family, for your friends, for yourself, do this for me.