BURLINGTON, Vt. -
First it was horrified screams, and then a victim's message that proved texting on the road can ruin a life. Since Vermont's hands-free law went into effect last year, Vermont State Police have issued nearly a dozen tickets or warnings a day to people behind the wheel.
In just a few seconds, you can go from on the road to in a hospital, needing resuscitation for life-threatening injuries from a car crash caused by distracted driving.
"When you are texting and driving, you are 23 times more likely to be involved in an auto accident," said Dr. Mario Trabulsy from the UVM Medical Center.
Sixty high school students and parents got that message Tuesday night at UVM.
CVU sophomore Jonah Breen drove for three minutes in a texting and driving simulator; three times he was too close to other cars, another time he went off the road.
"I thought before, if you do it for maybe a few seconds, it wouldn't make that big of a difference, but you can move so far off the road in just two to three seconds," said Breen.
When Debbie Drewniak was hit, the driver didn't even leave the road, but a few distracted seconds for reading a text changed this Essex resident's life forever.
"She has to live with what she chose to do. It was her choice and her responsibility. This was no accident," said Drewniak.
Drewniak was nearly killed in 2011 as she was walking her dog. Her medical bills now eclipse $1 million.
"I was by my mailbox, by my house when she hit me," said Drewniak.
In 2013, 31,000 people died in accidents caused by distracted driving.
Since Vermont's hands-free law took effect, the Vermont State Police have handed out 2,000 tickets for texting and driving. They've warned another 2,000.
A warning from a woman whose voice is another reminder of a life altered by texting and driving.
Twenty-four percent of the audience said they see their friend's text and drive all the time, but the National Safety Council reports that the number of serious crashes due to distracted driving has fallen since its peak in 2013.