Govt. program launched to combat distracted driving - KMSP-TV

Govt. program launched to combat distracted driving

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GAINESVILLE, Ga. -

The U.S. Department of Transportation recently launched its first ever National commercial, targeting distracted driving. It's called, “U drive. U text. U pay.”

This week marks the four-year anniversary since a crash that changed a Gainesville woman's life forever. Tina Barton says, it's been four long years of healing and grieving for the life she used to have.

Tina was as active as you can be. She ran or worked out five days a week, danced competitively and rode mountain bikes...but everything changed in an instant on May 8th, 2010.

"I had such a wonderful life and all of that life is gone," Tina says.

Tina and her then-husband were driving to her granddaughter’s softball game on a beautiful Saturday morning, when a car pulled out just feet in front of them. "The seatbelt tightened up, which held my torso tight but the airbag didn't reach me, so my head snapped. I felt it. I knew my neck was broken," recalls Tina.

She was paralyzed immediately. Tina spent Mother's Day in a coma, fighting for her life. "They didn't expect me to live. They brought my children in to say goodbye to me."

Doctors were able to save her and even repair part of her spine. She spent four months at Shepherd Center and can now move her arms and a few fingers, which makes her a high-functioning quadriplegic, but the 61-year old will never walk, or dance, again.

I find the blessings in every day but now I sit on the sidelines watch the world go by when I used to be a part of that world," Tina says.

Now she's speaking out, urging you to pay attention behind the wheel. "If you look away for just a few seconds and it could be over for you, or for somebody else," Tina exclaims.

The U.S. DOT recently launched it's first ever national ad campaign against distracted driving. It's a graphic, but eye opening commercial showing the dangers of texting and driving.

"It's not that important. That phone call can wait and that text message can wait or rifling through your briefcase or your purse...if it's that important, pull over," Tina adds.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says in 2012, 3,328 people were killed in distraction related wrecks. Tina was one of the lucky ones. "If you don't remember another thing that I've said today, remember that I'm in this chair for the rest of my life because somebody wasn't paying attention when they were driving," says Tina. "Just those few seconds if she'd have been watching, this wouldn't have happened to me."

Tina says her husband of about 3-months left her after the crash. She also lost her job being in charge of special needs school buses in North Fulton County. For years, she helped children in wheelchairs; now, she's the one who needs help.

Tina says Shepherd describes something traumatic like this, as a death of the life you were used to, with five stages of recovery: shock, anger, grief, bartering with god, and eventually -- acceptance.

The driver that hit Tina's vehicle was cited for failure to yield for causing the crash. It's not clear of distractions played a part in the crash.

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