A driver uses their cell phone while behind the wheel.
A driver uses their cell phone while behind the wheel.

Jacy Good learned while hospitalized on her 22nd birthday in 2008 that the Pennsylvania crash that nearly killed her claimed her parents’ lives—thanks to a teenage driver talking on his cell phone.

The White Plains resident who later dedicated her life to advocating against distracted driving shared those and other painful details during a panel discussion Wednesday at Lindenhurst High School.

“We need to change the way we think about this,” Good told students assembled at the school library. “When you are driving, do what it takes to not pick up your phone.”

Leading the discussion was New York State Sen. Charles Fuschillo (R-Merrick), who pointed to studies that found drivers distracted by their cell phones are 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision.

“Distracted drivers put everyone’s safety at risk,” said Fuschillo, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee. “Technology enables us to communicate with one another almost whenever and wherever we want, but it endangers lives when drivers pay more attention to a text or email than to the road ahead.”

Trooper Frank Bandiero, who was also on the panel, said that distracted drivers—20,000 of whom were ticketed by state police between July 2011 and July 2012, including 1,400 on LI—are easy to spot since they drive erratically. He said that parents need to set an example for their kids by not using their phones while driving.

A recent survey found that 58 percent of high school seniors and 43 percent of high school juniors said they had texted or emailed while driving during the previous month, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

“Young people, we think we’re invincible,” said Kristen Curran, a senior at Lindenhurst High School who recently obtained her driver’s license and joined the panel. “We think we have so many more years to come, but that’s not the truth.”

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Timothy Bolger is the Editor in Chief of the Long Island Press who’s been working to uncover unreported stories since shortly after it launched in 2003. When he’s not editing, getting hassled by The Man or fielding cold calls to the newsroom, he covers crime, general interest and political news in addition to reporting longer, sometimes investigative features. He won’t be happy until everyone is as pissed off as he is about how screwed up Lawn Guyland is.