2012-10-24 / Front Page

In a ‘split second’, texting changed a life

Noel Wilkerson Holmes, Associate Publisher

Jayci KorusJayci KorusJayci Korus left her home on a rainy Sunday, September 16 for a four and a half hour trip back to San Angelo where she attends Angelo State University. She had come back to her hometown to attend the Poteet Aggie’s homecoming game that weekend. About half-way through her trip on a road outside of Junction, Texas a “split second” decision nearly ended her life.

Jayci, a 2012 graduate of Poteet High School, former cheerleader, volleyball player, powerlifter and 4Her and now first year nursing student listened patiently as her mother warned about the dangers on the road. “I went through all the things that moms say to their children,” said Ms. Korus. “Don’t talk on your cell phone. Put it away. Pull over if you have to make a call. Don’t mess with the radio. Keep your eyes on the road. Drive slowly because it is wet out there. Be careful you could hydroplane.” Ms. Korus said that she was more fearful because of the rain and road conditions not truly that she thought Jayci would be driving carelessly. “I trusted her. She never gave me any reason to not trust her. She had always been the type of girl to follow the rules without a fuss. She was the type to tell friends and even her parents to “buckle up”. She always came in by curfew and called if she wanted to stay out a little later.” 

Jayci ‘s last reply was, “I’ll be safe, Mom. Love you.” 

Unfortunately though, Jayci did what thousands of teens across the U.S do when they drive. She texted. To be precise, Jayci looked down to read a text and lost control of her car. 

“It had been raining, and the roads were slick. I was luckily by myself in my car,” Jayci explained.  “I was on the road alone. There were no cars in sight. I looked down for what Jayci Korus who survied this wreck said “texting while driving is like a time bomb ready to go off.Jayci Korus who survied this wreck said “texting while driving is like a time bomb ready to go off.seemed like a split second to read a text and that was all it took,” The next several seconds seemed like hours to Jayci as she fought to regain control of her car. Unable to gain traction, Jayci was battling wet, slippery roads layered in a deadly concoction of oil mixed with water. “I spun faster and faster out of control for about 100 yards. The only reason I stopped was because I hit a guard rail on my driver side,” said Jayci. “I took out five of the posts and broke the sixth one.” 

When the car finally crashed to a halt, Jayci saw that her left leg had been severely gashed and she was bleeding profusely. Pinned under the mangled steering wheel, Jayci’s first thought was that she had lost her leg and would never walk again. But, she struggled to remove herself pulling her leg free. The only way out was to crawl through her shattered rear window as both doors were nothing more than crushed metal. As Jayci exited the window, she was met by an elderly couple who stopped to help. The woman, a stranger, opened her arms and Jayci said she fell right into them.  The couple called 911 and stayed with Jayci until the EMS arrived. They also lent Jayci their phone to call her parents. 

Ms. Korus says she is still in shock from the whole incident and feels extremely foolish to have not been more aware of her daughter’s texting while driving habits. “How could I have been so clueless,” said Ms. Korus. “I should have known. I was responsible and so was she, but I am the parent. I should have been checking her cell records, but it never occurred to me.” Ms. Korus said that if Jayci would have been killed or would have killed others or both that they would have had to put her six feet under because she would not be able to live with herself. Further she stated that she knows that Jayci would not be able to live with herself either.

Ms. Korus said that Jayci did not immediately tell her nor Jayci’s father, Jay Korus, both of Poteet, that she had been texting while driving.  Jayci just indicated that she had become distracted and because the roads were slick lost control. But a nagging feeling lingered with both parents. Ms. Korus decided to check out Jayci’s phone bill and said, “I never felt so stupid in my life.” She saw that Jayci began texting the moment she left Poteet and off and on until the accident.

Five guard rails were plowed down and the sixth snapped off when Jayci Korus’ car spun on a slick road after losing control due to her texting while driving.Five guard rails were plowed down and the sixth snapped off when Jayci Korus’ car spun on a slick road after losing control due to her texting while driving.While Ms. Korus is shocked at Jayci for texting while driving, it should not come as a surprise that TWD is an epidemic. The statistics gleaned from dozens of leading research, traffic safety and government studies show staggering facts on TWD. According to the Pew Research Center, texting is the primary form of communication among teens as most have grown up texting. This behavior is second nature to them and so it is easy for them to have a false sense of security. That teens think they are invincible,  are prone to impulsive behavior and heavily influenced by peer pressure increases the chance that they see texting while driving as a rite of passage. 

 Distracted driving causes 11 teen deaths every day. The collateral damage of these fatalities is heart wrenching and devastating changing forever the lives of all who loved the person killed in a TWD accident.  Parents, siblings, family members and loved ones live with the knowledge that the death of a loved one was ended by a senseless, careless and totally preventable act. It is unimaginable to families that a text, probably the equivalent of one to ten words which did not add up to anything, killed. 

Texting is six times more dangerous than driving while intoxicated according to the NHTSB. Distraction.gov found that in 2010, 3092 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver. An additional 416,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted drive.

But so far these facts haven’t seemed to influence public change as TWD is soaring.  The Korus’ would like to put a face to the facts in an effort to help motivate people to change their texting habits. Further, for parents to get involved in finding ways to help their teens understand the dangers of texting while driving. To shout it from the roof tops if they must that TWD can kill and that it can happen to anybody, anywhere at any moment.

 Jayci like the majority of teens thought she was always careful and that nothing bad would happen to her. “I didn’t always do it, but when I did I tried to make it safe,” said Jayci. “In all honesty though, there is NO WAY EVER to make texting and driving safe. It’s just a time bomb waiting to go off. I believe that’s every person’s biggest mistake. They think it won’t happen to them.”

Jayci came back home in early October telling her mom and dad that she needed to talk to them about something very important. She confessed to them that she had been texting when she had the wreck. “No one could ever imagine the disappointment my parents had in me,” said Jayci. “The initial shock of realizing she’s ok, she’s ok was replaced with sheer disappointment. They were so mad, disappointed, shocked, let down, furious, and sad. All those things combined into one. It was definitely one of the hardest things for me to handle; knowing that I disappointed them that much.” 

Ms. Korus said that teens and adults who text are living on borrowed time. “The more you do it the more comfortable you get doing it. Then the more chances you take and it is just a matter of time before it catches up with you,” said Korus. “You better hope and pray though that when it does happen that you are fortunate enough to walk away alive with only a totaled car and a scar for life like Jayci.”

Jayci said that she knows how fortunate she is and that she will never be the same person that she was – one that would text while driving. Jayci said that two EMS and the DPS officer came to visit her in the hospital. Her father asked the DPS officer “how lucky is Jayci to be alive?”

The officer replied “Sir, luck has nothing to do with this. It’s by the grace of God that she is still here with us.” “That was probably one of the scariest moments of my life and some of the hardest words to hear,” said Jayci.

Jayci said she has three simple words to her fellow teens about TWD: DON’T DO IT!  “I know how caught up you can get in it and it’s tempting to do it but nothing in the world is worth cutting your life even shorter. Every time you text or even just take your eyes off the road, you’re putting not only yours but the life of others in danger as well. IT’S NOT WORTH IT.”

 Jayci is currently without a car and has a roommate and a co-worker who are glad to give her rides. “ But I can assure you I will not have my phone anywhere near my hands when I drive. When you stop and realize how close you were to actually dying, all temptation is removed. I have no desire whatsoever to even pay attention to my phone while I’m driving.”

Jayci believes she survived for a reason, “I do not know what that reason is at this moment in time; but if it is to share my story and maybe save someone else’s life, then I’m all for that any day.”

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