Voices of GYTSM: A Survivor’s Call-to-Action
by Jacy Good
Youth Traffic Safety Advocate & founder, Hang Up and Drive
I was lucky enough to survive a crash caused by a driver having a conversation while on speakerphone, doing what we’re told is “safe.” Neither of my parents survived the collision. I’ve developed an alarmingly large network of friends who have also lost loved ones to a distracted driver. Thousands of lives, families, and communities are destroyed every year in our country because of this choice that a phone is more important than a life.
I was 21 years old when I lost both my parents and was forced to face the world without my their love and guidance. The emotional pain that remains impacts every day of my life. But I want to be selfish for a moment. As difficult as it will always be to face the world knowing that no one is capable of loving me the way my parents did, it has been every bit as difficult to relearn how to live with the physical injuries I sustained.
A distracted driver running a red light caused a semi-truck carrying 30 tons of milk to swerve into the oncoming lane of traffic. Mom and dad didn’t suffer; they were killed on impact. Two broken feet, a broken wrist, broken tibia, broken fibula, broken clavicle, shattered pelvis, collapsed lungs, lacerated liver, damaged carotid arteries, and a traumatic brain injury put me on the edge of death. I was given a 10 percent chance of surviving that first night. I did. I battled through operations, infections, and coming to the understanding that even though I was in excruciating physical pain every moment of every day, I was still luckier than my parents.
Today I am able to live an almost entirely independent and normal life – emphasis on the almost. A brain injury never goes away. I don’t have the brain cells that know how to use my left arm or lower leg. I can’t tie my own shoes, struggle with executive planning and retaining short-term memories. It’s extremely difficult to make it through a day without a nap. I don’t know if my body will ever be able to give birth or take care of the children I’ve always dreamt of having.
I will never be able to work a “normal” job. There’s no more hiking or biking, playing softball or volleyball, no more going for a run – formerly my favorite things to do. Thanks to multiple surgeries, hundreds of hours of therapies, and a strong dose of good old stubborn willpower, I wake up every day, take a shower, dress myself, feed myself, and drive myself to wherever I need to be to share my story.
Maybe I was given such a horrific story because something needs to be done. Maybe by sharing such a tragedy, citizens will be able to put themselves in my shoes and imagine what their graduations, weddings, and life events would be without a loved one. The thousands of senseless deaths happening on our roads are devastating and we need to talk about them.
Simultaneously, we need to talk about the HUNDREDS of THOUSDANDS of preventable injuries happening on our roads. As much as every day of my life is affected by the absence of my parents, the body in which I was left impacts every single moment of every one of those days.
I will take this body and continue to share my parents’ lives all across this country until the physical AND emotional pain happening on our roads is put to end. We all have a role to play and an example to set. When I was released from the hospital I was determined to get my life back. Today I am even more determined to make sure that our society wakes up and appreciates the obligation we all have, both as drivers and passengers, to look out for each other every time we get into a car. Every one of us has the power to prevent a tragedy…we just have to make the choice to do so. Global Youth Traffic Safety Month is a perfect time to take that step.