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Distracted driving victim copes with traumatic brain injury

(WBMA)

A man who survived a crash involving a distracted driver has a warning for you heading into the Labor Day weekend: Pay attention to the road—not your phone.

It’s truly a powerful message from a man whose life changed dramatically—all because a driver used a cell phone behind the wheel.

Daniel Voss was riding his bike four years ago in Anniston. He was hit by a driver talking on a cell phone. He suffered a traumatic brain injury.

And now, every day is a struggle.

“I feel hurt,” Voss told ABC 33/40 News Investigates. “Ain’t going to be able to live my life like it was supposed to be.”

Voss is now prone to seizures. His brain function is slower. His mood and emotions are difficult to control.

That’s after four brain surgeries following that crash in 2013.

Voss hired attorney Brandon Bishop with the Alexander Shunnarah law firm, sued the driver, and won.

“There’s obviously going to be a portion of those funds that are set aside for his future medical care,” Bishop said. “We fully expect that he’s going to need a lifelong medication regimen.”

Shocking eyewitness accounts of distracted driving

But that victory in court hasn’t stop others from driving while distracted.

Racheal Holmes spotted a driver texting on Interstate 65 at very high speeds.

“They were doing easily 80 mph,” Holmes said. “It was horrible. I thought we were all going to die.”

Bus driver Verlon Tucker spotted a distracted truck driver operating an 18-wheeler on Interstate 59.

“And he was all over the road, all over the road,” Tucker said. “And when I got up close to him. He was playing a game on a tablet and driving a truck.”

Most distracted drivers think they can get away with it.

I tested texting while driving out on a course

I found out exactly how dangerous texting and driving can be at the Alabama Traffic Safety Center at the University of Montevallo.

Safety Education Specialist Brian Swiney was my passenger. I stayed in my lane and didn’t knock down any pylons when I wasn’t on the phone.

Then I tried to text while driving an S-curve that simulates a country road. I knocked down a bunch of pylons as I ran off the road.

“That was pretty bad,” Swiney said. “We ran over a lot of cones. Thank goodness it was nothing more than that. Obviously, you couldn’t hold your path of travel.”

I also tried to text and drive on a simple straightway at 21 miles an hour. Watch what happens as I approach a sudden red light: I hit the pylons.

“We ran a light,” Swiney said. “Possibly caused a crash or possibly hit a pedestrian, or something else simply because we were trying to make a text.

“I was totally disorientated,” I told Swiney.

Out of the streets, those pylons could be people—like Daniel Voss. He has a powerful message about using a cell phone while driving.

“They can wait,” Voss said.” I could be dead. I got off lucky.”

Safety experts say sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for about five seconds.

So, if you do that—and travel 55 miles an hour—that’s like driving the entire length of a football field with your eyes closed.

The best thing to do: Keep your phone in your pocket or handbag while you drive.

Dramatic difference with state fines

The difference in fines for distracted driving between Alabama and other states is significant.

Alabama has a $25 fine for texting while driving.

By comparison, Alaska has up to a $10,000 fine and a year in prison.

That’s a very big difference.

You can learn more about distracted driving here.

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