Distracted driving changes one woman's life forever

Without warning, Megan Dixon’s life changed forever on Nov. 28, 2009.

The young mother was driving along 40 Highway from her home in Blue Springs to her job in Lee’s Summit.

“Everything was great, driving to work, and then ‘Boom!’

Thirty minutes later, in the emergency room,” Dixon recalled the wreck that landed her in the hospital.

The driver of another car crossed out of his lane, struck her car, and pushed her off the road and head-on into the corner of a building that housed an auto repair shop.

"He was getting over to my lane real quick but not paying attention ‘cause he was on his phone,” Dixon said.

She fractured both her knee caps. Her airbags didn’t deploy and she struck her face on the steering wheel.

“My face was just black from all the bruising,” Dixon recounted about her injures.

The driver of the vehicle was not who many would typically think would be texting and driving. He was a man in his 30s who admitted to police he was texting his boss.

The fact that an adult was responsible for the accident is not surprising to those who deal with texting and driving accidents every day.

"To this day, most people feel like teenage girls represent most of the problem. Not even teenage boys, But, in fact, the largest segment of distracted drivers out there are adults,” said Doug Horn, an attorney who handles distracted driving cases.

Horn believes it has become customary and socially acceptable to text and drive.

“Everybody’s doing it. The example is being set by adults,” Horn said.

Missouri has no law against texting and driving. However, in Kansas the practice is illegal at any age.

Since the ban went into effect, Prairie Village Police have issued:

* 58 tickets in 2011
* 149 tickets in 2012
* 296 tickets in 2013

Prairie Village officers told 41 Action News the recipient of those tickets most often was a woman, aged 30-39.

The Kansas Highway Patrol has witnessed a similar pattern of tickets issued to women in their 30s.

“We see an awful lot of this problem. We just had an accident - not in this area - but a 32-year-old woman killed who was texting to say ‘I love this song,’” Trooper Howard Dickinson told 41 Action News.

A report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows teens are responsible for 21 percent of all fatal texting and driving accidents.

However, adults 30-39 came in not far behind and are responsible for 16 percent of all distracted driving accidents. 20-29 year olds were responsible for 15 percent of all fatal texting and driving crashes.

“It's not just a teen problem, it's an everybody problem," said Dan Lowe of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

Law enforcement officers believe teens are getting the message to put down their phones through graduated licenses, public services announcements, and safety events at their schools.

One event at Platte County High School in April made teens attempt to text while riding a tricycle.

However, there are not as many events targeting adults. One attempt has been made through “public shaming.”

The website “Twitspotting” asks people to submit pictures of people distracted while driving . Some of the pictures have been turned into billboards around California.

Horn’s still unsure if that will make people put down their phones.

“I feel like until we see a distracted driver as deadly as a drunk driver people will continue to keep on their phones,” Horn said.

As for Megan Dixon, it took her eight weeks to heal from her injuries. Even years later, she has pain in her knees and migraines from a concussion. She cannot run for more than a couple of minutes and has trouble doing things like riding a bike with her son.

She hopes her story teaches others about the dangers of texting and driving.

“I just think it is very pointless and it is a very selfish thing to do.”

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