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UT Student Educates Campus About Distracted Driving

By NINA QUIGLEY

The life of UT student Emily Ennis, a sophomore international business management major, was almost taken on the corner of West Kennedy and North Boulevard in April 2016. Ennis, on her way to pick up milk at the Metro Market, was patiently awaiting for the cross signal when a vehicle struck her.

Two drivers were involved in this accident. They both ran red lights and collided, which redirected one of the vehicles towards Ennis. The vehicle that struck her was traveling at 50 miles per hour before crashing into the oncoming vehicle, who was turning left onto North Boulevard from West Kennedy. The impact of the vehicle left her on the concrete ground unresponsive, with a bone in her left arm protruding out of her skin, and road rash on the left side of her body.

“I remember waking up, because initially I had blacked out when I saw the cars coming towards me,” Ennis said. “My arm was completely shattered. I could see the bones sticking out of my left arm, and all the flesh, it was very unnerving for me.”

This was the aftermath of distracted driving.

“When thinking of distracted driving I automatically think of texting and driving,” Jaylen Bean, senior math major at UT, said.

One of the most common examples of distracted driving includes the use of smartphones, but other methods involve playing with the radio or climate control, consuming food and beverages, window gazing, and focusing on others in the car.

“‘I should be dead; why am I here?’ That’s all I was able to say,” Ennis said. Ennis survived, but the process of recovery was a long journey that took the rest of the spring 2016 semester into summer, during which she took a leave of absence from UT. She was able to return for the fall semester after dealing with shock, surgery, PTSD and mononucleosis (Mono).

Today, Ennis hopes to impact the future of distracted driving by sharing her story along with the consequences of this action. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the largest group of offenders for distracted driving involve young, less experienced drivers.

Ennis’s goal is to educate and make the student body aware of this ongoing issue, because it involves and impacts college students. She has begun this education process early this February at a Live Well UT meeting by presenting her story along with introducing statistics on distracted driving from distracted.gov and the US census.

“This topic correlates with Live Well UT, because it’s overall wellness and open dialogue between students about things that could affect their wellness or health status,” said Carlina Adame, area coordinator for Watch Your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). Adame explained that while Watch Your BAC focuses on distracted driving in terms of drinking and driving, Ennis is focusing on other forms of distracted driving, such as texting while driving.

“I was asked to speak to first year experience classes by someone at the Live Well UT meeting, so I’m going to be doing that next month. I also want to work with Live Well UT to begin speaking to all Greek Life organizations as well,” said Ennis.

Through use of communication Ennis’s future plans are to present her story on distracted driving, by giving statistics along with the consequences, and bringing forth methods of prevention.

“I think the best part about first year experience classes is that they’re supposed to be educating on experience not just a text book level class,” Adame said. “It’s more about what do you really need to know in life aside from your career and how to benefit from life itself in college.”

Nina Quigley can be reached at nina.quigley@spartans.ut.edu.

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