Distracted drivers pose dangers on the road

Distracted drivers pose dangers on the road

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ATLANTA -

Surfing the web, eating, putting on makeup -- those are just a few of the things drivers do behind the wheel. It's distracted driving and it's dangerous.

For 26-year-old Jake Berryhill, the clicking of a phone keyboard was nearly the last sound that he ever heard. Jake lost control of his SUV while texting and driving.

"As I was heading for the trees, I thought, ‘This is it. This is where my story ends,'" Berryhill said.

Jake wasn't wearing his seat belt. His whole body ended up in the passenger side floorboard.

"When he arrived, he had teeth knocked out, bruises, he had a cervical collar, he was partially paralyzed. He was in rough shape," said Bridget Metzger, the director of injury prevention at Shepherd Center.

Shepherd Center is no stranger to victims of car crashes -- many of which, they assume, are caused by some sort of distracted driving.

"Car accidents are the number one cause of the injuries that we see at Shepherd Center," Metzger said. "We don't know how many were distracted driving-related because so few people are willing to say, ‘Yes, I  was driving distracted.'"

Georgia State Patrol troopers say certain types of collisions consistent with distracted driving are up around metro Atlanta. They've issued more than 4,100 violations for following too closely this year. That's up nearly 500 percent from 682 violations in 2009.

"I don't think they register that they were driving distracted sometimes because I think people are so used to multi-tasking in the car now," Metzger said.

The Department of Transportation says sending or receiving a text message takes your eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds -- that's about the distance it takes to drive a football field at 55 miles per hour.

"In that split second, something deadly can happen," GSP Capt. Jason Johnson.

"Any time that a person is driving distracted -- and distraction does not just mean text messages -- there are hundreds of different types of distractions -- anytime that's happening, you're putting yourself and somebody else at risk potentially," Metzger said.

Jake is one of the lucky ones. With rehab, he was able to get back on his feet. Since his story did not end alongside that road 2.5 years ago, he's sharing his cautionary tale.

"I know I've changed a lot of people's driving habits for sure," Berryhill said. "My friends -- they won't text and drive anymore."

Now Jake tucks his phone away before he hits the road. He hopes others will stop and realize that no text is worth your life.

"Distracted driving is everybody's problem and it's everybody's responsibility," Metzger said. "You need to be a role model every single time you get behind the wheel -- for yourself, for your friends, your family and for your community."

Jake isn't back to 100 percent. He said his legs won't let him run very far. Still, he said he's thankful to have a second chance.

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