Crash victim says distracted driver almost killed her

Texting and driving is responsible for about a quarter of all crashes despite new laws banning the use of cell phones behind the wheel.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration said drivers are 23 times more likely to crash if they text while driving. In fact, texting while driving is becoming one of the top killers in the U.S. and the victim isn't always the one on the phone.

Mayra Valdez was driving home November 9 when her ordinary commute took a dangerous turn.

"I had a green light, so I started going forward and the 18-wheeler came out of nowhere. The back part of the trailer caught onto my truck and dragged me for quite a few feet and I was stuck in my truck until the ambulance showed up," Valdez said.  

A victim on scene told police the driver of the 18-wheeler ran a stoplight at the intersection of the 130 service road and the Highway 290 frontage road.

"So when the accident happened, I wasn't quite sure how it happened. Instantly my head started hurting. Most of the pain I felt was to my face. My eyes got swollen, there was a lot of glass everywhere, I just felt pain everywhere," said Valdez. 

Police cited the driver for running a red light and checked a box stating the driver was using a cell phone at the time of the crash.

"I think anybody that's on their phone needs to take precautions because simply just the mere act of looking at a text, or just dialing, or looking at a phone call distracts you for a moment and something severe like this could happen. Just one moment causes such severe injuries," Valdez said. 

Mayra was lucky her injuries weren't worse, but she did suffer from a head contusion, an injury to her right knee, her left shoulder and glass in her eye. Mayra is waiting to see a neurologist because she is still experiencing symptoms of head trauma months after the accident.

"She should feel very lucky. If you look at how the accident happened and the points of impact, if it would have been about a half second earlier it would have hit her on the driver side door and she probably wouldn't be with us," said Brad Bonilla, Valdez's attorney. 

Bonilla said stories like Mayra's are all too common.

"It seems like a majority of the cases that come into my office are cases where a driver is distracted and causes a car wreck. It used to be the exception now it seems like it's the rule," Bonilla said. 

Last year the city of Austin passed a "Hands-Free Ordinance" prohibiting the use of cell phones while driving or cycling.

Bonilla said that hasn't slowed down the number of distracted driving cases coming into his office.

"Unfortunately, I think the difference is that anytime there's an accident people know that it's a law and people are more susceptible now to try and blame the accident on something other than cell phone use," Bonilla said. 

Until people behind the wheel stop picking up the phone, drivers like Mayra won't be safe.

"I worry what would have happened to me or my family had this been much more severe or if I would have been in a smaller vehicle, but I'm just really thankful I'm okay for now and I just hope this doesn't happen to anyone else," Valdez said.

A recent CDC survey found almost 45 percent of teens said they had texted while driving during the previous 30 days.

It takes the average person five seconds to send a text. A driver going 55 miles per hour will travel about the length of a football field during that time.
 

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