By Marie Roberts / Guest writer
The Meridian Star
Advocating for safer driving is just one cause 18 year old Rachel Madison is zealous about. A native of Union, Madison’s passion stems from a car accident she was involved in at the age of 16.
“I was driving to a family reunion when I was hit head on by a driver texting on his cell phone,” Madison said.
While the crash did not produce life-threatening injuries for either party, Madison’s view on cell phone use while in a vehicle was forever changed.
“I had never really thought about how dangerous it was to text and drive before the wreck,” Madison said.
Now, as a recent high school graduate, Madison plans to become more involved with safe-driving campaigns to help educate others on the dangers of texting and driving. She will be pursuing a degree in communications and public relations, and plans to use her education as a way to promote her philanthropic cause.
“People need to understand that reading a text is a huge distraction," Madison said. "Taking your eyes of the road for even a few seconds can cause an accident.”
Inspired by AT&T’s efforts to stop texting and driving campaign, Madison has created a Facebook group where members can sign an electronic petition and pledge to not to text while driving. The group currently has more than 200 members.
“I just want people to think about what they are doing … what a huge risk they’re taking every day,” Madison said.
Using statistics pulled from AT&T’s "It Can Wait" campaign, Madison describes the dangers of texting while driving: “Texting drivers are 23 times more likely to be in an crash and over 100,000 people are killed or injured each year in crashes. The average person reads a text for more than four seconds, which is plenty of time to drift into another lane.”
Looking back on the accident which led to her advocacy, Madison says it was an educational experience with a steep learning curve.
“I don’t want other people to wait and learn the hard way about how risky using your phone while driving can be,” Madison said.
While she walked away from the crash with only a sprained wrist and some bruises, she acknowledges how much worse it could have been. “If I had been going faster or the other driver hadn’t realized he’d hit me and slammed on his brakes, I think I would have had more serious injuries,” Madison said.
The other driver, who admitted to police that he had been texting and driving, is now a supporter for the safer driving cause.
“He’s been really active and has pledged not to text and drive again,” Madison said.
For now, Madison hopes to get the public on board and gain more pledges to not text and drive.
“I just want people to be safe and not take unnecessary risks. Believe me; anything you’re texting can wait until you’re not driving.”