Debbie Drewniak, disabled in an accident involving a texting-while-driving driver, speaks to high school students at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

Debbie Drewniak, disabled in an accident involving a texting-while-driving driver, speaks to high school students at the University of Vermont Medical Center.

My name is Debbie Drewniak.  The date was August 7, 2011.  I don’t remember any of this day, or much of anything leading up to it.  As a pedestrian in a 25 mph residential area I was with Charlie, my leashed 105 lb Lab and best friend.  I was bringing him out for his final nightly break and checking my mail when I was hit by a teenager who admitted in Vermont State court to texting and driving when she hit me.  She had two months driving experience and never took drivers education, only sat for the driving test when she became of age.

She killed my dog and almost killed me.  My medical bills have exceeded more than one million dollars.  A lawyer told me if I had been hit by someone with ample insurance, the case could have been worth four or five million dollars.  Since she had nothing, that’s what I got—nothing.  She broke nearly every bone in my body, including my neck.  My pelvis was smashed to the point where doctors thought if I lived, I wouldn’t walk again.

I have been through several eye surgeries.  I don’t know yet if these surgeries are over and done with.  Since I still don’t see right, I expect there will be more.

Now disabled, I can’t work or do much of anything.  I was on vacation from my job of 15 years as an executive assistant at a world-wide high-tech medical software company.  I loved my work.

Living in Vermont, I loved to be outside.  Along with walking my dog at least two times a day, I used the bike path a lot.

I used to attend a lot of live music venues, including mostly country shows at the Champlain Valley Fair.

I have been diagnosed with a Traumatic Brain Injury.  The State of Vermont has revoked my driver’s license.   My family brings me everywhere I need to be, including doctor’s appointments and grocery shopping.  I am not allowed to leave my yard due to vision restrictions.

I graduated from Colchester High School in 1977.  Thirty four years later, so did the teenager who nearly killed me.  She was charged with committing a felony.  By law, she can’t vote.  Along with other punishments, she was required to spend thirty days in jail.  She also was sentenced to 500 hours of community service.

Although I am able to live by myself in my own home, I can’t do everything for myself.  There is a lot of work which my family does for me.  My younger brother and his family live around the corner.  He visits with me several times a week.  He mows my lawn, rakes leaves, shovels snow, and does things inside like change smoke alarm batteries.  He also gets my mail and pays my bills.

I mainly try to concentrate on doing things that will make me a better person.  This includes exercise, which for now is limited to walking in my house and yard.  I cannot leave my yard alone due to vision restrictions.

I can no longer travel, either for work or pleasure.  I used to go to Florida, Canada, Arizona, California and overseas for personal vacation travel.

Being hit has changed lives forever–mine, my family, and the girl who hit me.  I don’t want to see this happen to anyone.

My family and I have participated in an AT &T documentary on texting and driving called “From One Second to the Next.”  It’s the story of four families whose lives have been affected by texting and driving.  You can go on-line to click on videos, then scroll to the 2013 documentary.  It takes about 30 minutes to watch the entire documentary.

I have also taken part in helping change the Vermont State texting and driving law, making it worse for people charged with this offense.  It’s still not as hard as I would like, but the punishments are harsher than they were before.

When your car is on, turn your cell phone off.  The distractions, especially texting and driving, just aren’t worth it.

Now disabled from being hit as a pedestrian by a texting-while-driving teenager, Debbie Drewniak was an executive administrative assistant in a global high-tech software company. Her mission is to stop texting while driving so what happened to her does not happen to anyone else. 


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