Fatal Distraction

MAYFIELD – Jacy Good said May 18, 2008, should have been the best day of her life. But the day she graduated from college ended in tragedy.

As Good and her parents drove home after the ceremony through rural Pennsylvania, a teenage driver in another car reached for his cellphone and ran a red light. The driver of an 18-wheeler swerved to avoid him but smashed into the Goods’ car. Jacy survived with serious injuries. Her parents were killed.

Good recounted the tragedy Monday afternoon in front of the ninth- through 12th-grade classes at Mayfield Junior-Senior High School. A member of the board of FocusDriven – Advocates for Cell-Free Driving, Good is an outspoken advocate for stronger laws against the use of mobile phones behind the wheel.

“Car crashes are the leading cause of death for teens, so it is very important for them to understand how they can be as safe as possible behind the wheel,” Mayfield High Principal Rob Husain said in a news release about Good’s appearance at the school.

Describing herself as a “brain injury in action,” Good said she has limited use of her left ankle, which requires a brace, almost no use of her left arm, and neurological damage.

Good said she was lucky to have survived. The accident happened right down the road from an ambulance station and near the home of a paramedic, who responded to the scene immediately. She was told her father, who had been driving, had a faint pulse that faded right away.

“I was told he didn’t suffer,” she said.

Her mother, who’d been sitting in the back seat, would have had a better chance of surviving if she had worn her seatbelt.

Jacy suffered multiple broken bones and severe organ and brain damage. Doctors who treated her at the Reading Hospital said at the time she had just a 10 percent chance of recovering.

According to Good, no charges were filed against either the truck driver or the teenager who caused the accident.

“I was furious,” Good said.

After a long recovery, she began to advocate for stronger penalties for motorists using cellphones while driving. In the Pennsylvania state legislature, bills she has supported have been struck down, save for a bill that prohibits texting while driving. Good says it’s not enough.

“Other lives are at risk,” she said, adding it’s only a matter of time before more people are touched by this kind of tragedy.

New York state law prohibits talking or texting on a cellphone while driving.

Good, who plans to get married later this year, said even her wedding day – which also should be one of the greatest days of her life – will be affected by what happened in 2008.

“I don’t have a dad to walk me down the aisle,” she said.

Students said they took Good’s message to heart.

Mayfield High School junior Evan King, who has a learner’s permit, said he always keeps his cellphone out of his reach while he drives.

Jessica Brand, also an 11th-grader, said she was inspired by Good’s story. Brand said she has been concerned about distracted driving since one of her family members was involved in an accident with a drunk driver.

“She’s so strong despite what she endured,” Brand said of Good.

Arthur Cleveland can be reached at [email protected].

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