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Co-Founders Lieberman & Becker

Ben & Debbie Lieberman

We are all petrified to be the victim of a drunk driver. Yet, according to studies, texting drivers are impaired to the blood alcohol level of someone legally drunk. It doesn’t take an academic study to conclude that if you are not looking at the road, you are more likely to cause a collision. Think about your day today: Do you know more people who will be driving drunk or who will be texting and multitasking while driving? My prediction is you will say dramatically more texters as opposed to drinkers. Now add in other Smartphone activities like email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, ESPN, etc.

This may all sound like theory and speculation but for us this became a very tragic reality. My son, a college freshman, was in the back seat of a car, with his seatbelt on, heading to work. The driver of the car drove over a double yellow line and then head-on into an on-coming Jeep. The driver has said he fell asleep navigating on a twisting country road on a sunny summer day just before 8:00 a.m. Cell phone records show he had been texting during the drive and that the driver’s Smartphone was drawing and sending data from the internet during the drive. The collision happened when they were traveling briefly through a dead cell area so it can’t be definitively proven one way or the other about cell phone activities at impact.

In total, five people were taken to the hospital and most had serious operations. There are plenty of scars (both physically and emotionally) remaining with the other passengers. After 32 torturous days in the intensive care unit and too many damn surgeries to keep track of, we lost our son. Our son’s name is Evan Lieberman. Now you know one person that died. My concern is you will know more. I hope we are wrong with this prediction and we are trying to do something about it. We hope you will join us in this effort to make the roads safer.

We have witnessed first hand that there is very little police protocol in place to determine whether distracted driving was a factor in a collision. There are no Breathalyzer Tests for distracted operation, and police should be alert to the possibility that texting or other distracted driving may have been involved. The driver’s cell phone when Evan was injured was never recovered, nor requested by the police at the scene or subsequently. It has taken grueling efforts on our part and our own initiatives to obtain information and some degree of answers. A Department of Motor Vehicle judge recently suspended the driver’s license for a year, in part because of a finding the driver was operating a motor vehicle while using a portable electronic device (his cell phone).

There is a growing concern around the risk of teenage drivers. The current generation of teenage drivers is dramatically more dependent on Smartphones than previous generations. The teenage driving population throughout generations has always been filled with inexperienced and fearless car operators. Now those drivers who are texting and consequently impaired to the level of drunk driving seem to be causing an increase in fatalities. According to the US Department of Transportation, there was a seven percent spike of traffic casualties in 2012 as compared to the previous time period in 2011 (25,500). It seems a strange statistic because cars are being built safer and issues like teenage drunk driving is down a whopping 54 percent during the last twenty years. So what could account for the difference? Could it be the increase in popularity, dependence, and usage of Smartphones while driving?

We believe there is a need to tackle distracted driving in a similar fashion to how drunk driving was addressed decades ago. When we as a nation finally understood how lethal drunken driving was, and how vulnerable the innocent population was, we were outraged enough to do something about this behavior, both legally and socially. In a lot of ways we need to show more urgency with this current threat because Smartphone technology is so new and it is constantly evolving. Frankly, the technology is way, way ahead of the laws. It’s easier to be angry toward drunk drivers than distracted drivers because we don’t know as many. Smartphone driving is somehow more tolerable because everyone does it. There was a time when everyone was smoking a few packs of cigarettes a day and driving without seatbelts. Everyone did it. That is, until enough people understood the damage first hand.

Trust me, distracted operation can cause irreparable damage. This may be an uncomfortable topic to read about and it certainly wasn’t easy to write. It wasn’t, however, the toughest thing I have written. It was much more difficult writing my son’s eulogy.

Deborah Becker

"My son was the front seat passenger in the head-on car collision that caused Evan Lieberman’s death. A woman who had stopped at the scene called to tell me my son was injured, lying on the side of the road waiting for medical help. When I was 14, I took the call from a hospital where my older brother was being treated after another driver caused an accident. My brother died, forever impacting my family.

I am working with the Lieberman family on DORCS in the hope we can prevent other families from receiving the terrible call that tells them a beloved family member has been injured or killed in a collision that could so easily have been avoided. We want drivers, especially young drivers, to make better judgments and not allow themselves to be distracted by cell phones, texting, drowsiness, putting on make-up, or whatever else takes their attention away from driving for fateful and fatal seconds.

The driver of the car with Evan and my son said he picked up his head, saw the on-coming car and tried to turn back into his lane, but it was too late. My son and Evan, who both had been asleep, were jarred awake by the deafening sound of the crash and the pain of their injuries. Little or no time may exist for a driver to correct mistakes from distracted driving.

My son is doing well now, after two hospitalizations, three surgeries and quite a number of doctor and physical therapy visits. We live with the memory of him being raced to emergency surgery and know how close he came to being killed or crippled, probably spared by the front seat airbag that Evan did not have.

Evan would have had a wonderful life ahead of him, and it is a tragedy he was killed on his way to work on a beautiful summer day. We ask that people of all ages learn from Evan’s death, and the loss of so many others, and make a commitment to stop distracted driving.