Oprah's No Texting Campaign
If you think you can call, text and drive at the same time, you cannot. That message you can't wait to send could kill. Distracted driving is an epidemic that is sweeping through our country, claiming lives and destroying families.
Oprah's message for you
In September 2008, a Los Angeles commuter train conductor missed a red light while sending and receiving more than 40 text messages. His packed train collided head-on with a freight train, injuring 135 people. The conductor and 24 others were killed, making it the second worst commuter train crash in U.S. history.
Weeks later, a school bus carrying 21 students was rear-ended by an 18-wheel semitruck. The bus was pushed more than 200 feet before bursting into flames. Twenty students escaped, but 13-year-old Margay Schee was killed. The truck driver admitted he had been texting and hadn't seen that the bus was stopped.
These accidents made national headlines, but so many others have been killed in communities just like yours. Nearly 500,000 people are injured and 6,000 are killed each year because drivers are talking, texting and e-mailing behind the wheel. "It is my prayer that this show, this day will be a seminal day in your life," Oprah says. "Let it be the end, the end of you using a cell phone or sending a text message when you are behind the wheel of a moving vehicle. And until we as a nation decide we're going to change that, those numbers are only going to go up."
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Two days before Thanksgiving, Shelly came back from a doctor's appointment to find emergency crews on her street. "There were all these people and a child lying on the ground," she says. "I had no idea it was my daughter."
Shelly remembers that tragic day
Daren says Erica was riding her bike home from school. "Erica was just around the corner from our house," he says. "She was 30 seconds from being home safely."
Erica had been hit head-on by a 5,000-pound SUV. Police say that the driver had recently finished a phone call at the time of the accident. "The driver said: 'I'm so sorry. I didn't see her,'" Shelly says. "I felt badly for the driver because I thought: 'Oh, she's unconscious. She's going to be okay.' ... And they started cutting my daughter's clothes off and it was hitting me this is very, very, very serious."
Erica was rushed to the local children's hospital, then airlifted to another facility. "The neurosurgeon made it very clear she was going to die," Shelly says. "I spent the night with her that night. I held her. Cried. I kissed her. I sang to her. I just needed to have time with my girl."
In the meantime, Shelly and Daren say every single person who gets behind the wheel can make a difference. "Get off the phone. Save a life. Don't talk and drive," she says. "You've got precious cargo in that car. Your life. Your children's life. They are not worth a phone call, a text, an e-mail. It's not worth it."
September 22, 2006, began like any other day for Jackie Furfaro. She kissed her husband, Jim, goodbye as he left to pick up his colleague, Keith O'Dell, for work. A few hours later, Jackie arrived at work, where police were waiting for her. They told her Jim had been in an accident. "I saw Jim's license in the hands of one of the police officers, and I realized that he was dead," she says.
"They told me that a 19-year-old who was driving a white Tahoe had crossed the center line and clipped my husband," she says. "He ended up in the oncoming traffic line and was broadsided by the vehicle behind the 19-year-old, and he was killed instantly, along with Keith."
An investigator at the crash site suspected texting was involved when he saw the 19-year-old, Reggie Shaw, texting on the way to a mandatory drug and alcohol screening. No drugs or alcohol were found in his system, but cell phone records confirmed Reggie had been texting from the time he got into his car up until the moment of the crash.
Before the accident, Reggie says he texted "pretty close to 100 percent of the time" while driving. "I just never thought about it," he says. "Growing up, going to high school, going to driver's ed, it was never taught to me how dangerous it was."
Reggie says he's haunted by what he's done. "This affects my life every day. It's something that I can never really forgive myself for. It was a poor choice that I made," he says. "I have trouble sleeping at night. You drive down the road, you see accidents on the side of the road, and instantly that's the first thing that I think of. It's hard every day. It never gets easier."
Still, Reggie says it's important for him to share his story with others. In fall 2008, Reggie spoke at a national summit in Washington, D.C., about the dangers of distracted driving. He also speaks at high schools to give students the warning he never received. "A lot of them think along the lines like I thought: 'I can do this. I'm safe,'" he says. "I explain to them: 'It's not safe. Absolutely not. Look what it's done to me. Look what it's done to these two families. You don't want to put anyone through that. It's not worth it.'"
Despite the pain he's caused her family, Jackie says she has forgiven Reggie. "I realize that he was truly sorry and he's accepted his punishment," she says. "He's even gone above and beyond what was asked of him in some cases."
Jennifer opens up about the accident
Jennifer says she was stunned after seeing the wreckage of her mother's car. "When I saw the seat she was sitting in, that was the hardest part for me," she says. "Put your mother, your wife, your son, your daughter, your grandparents, your friend in that seat that my mother was sitting in and you tell me, is that phone call worth it?"
Jennifer wants people to know having a headset won't protect you. "The man driving that car that hit my mother was driving for less than a quarter of a mile. He was on the phone for less than a minute. He couldn't do it. His brain couldn't handle it," she says. "It's not where your hands are. It's where your head is."
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Watch this entire episode now
Families remember loved ones lost to distracted driving
What you really see when you're texting