Marble Falls, Texas, resident Karen Marshall admits she was distracted on the morning of May 7, 2013. Karen was on her way out of town, and well aware of the construction on the highway. She had traveled that route many times—before and during the road construction.

“The trucks were always entering and exiting the road,” she said. “But I was digging around in my purse for a piece of gum. I never saw him.”

“Him” was a dump truck that Karen rear-ended. Traffic had slowed to a crawl, but Karen barreled into the truck going 65 miles per hour.

She was driving a company car, and when the dust settled, a co-worker who saw the logo on the car opened the door and sat with Karen until the first responders arrived.

“I was in so much pain,” she recalled. “The ambulance came and situated me a little bit, and then Air Evac picked me up and flew me to University Medical Center Brackenridge in downtown Austin.”

Karen suffered a broken back, ribs and tail bone, a compound fracture of her ankle, and internal injuries. She spent two weeks in the hospital and another week at a rehabilitation hospital. She attends physical therapy three times each week, but can now walk with just the use of a cane.

“I’m trying to get better as fast as I can, because I love people and being out and about,” she said.

One of the first things she did once she was able to get out of the house was write thank you notes and make goodie baskets for the first responders who helped her, including the Marble Falls, Texas, crew of flight nurse Mary Nunnally, flight paramedic Manny Gallegos and pilot Adam Patterson.

“I’m so thankful for everyone who responded and helped me that day,” Karen said. “It took me a while before I could take the baskets and thank you notes. Every time I saw a picture of my car—it looked like it went through a meat grinder—and thought about the accident I just became so emotional.”

Karen works in community and economic development and often travels around the area to give presentations. While she was still in the hospital, her company asked her permission to develop its own presentation for the employees.

“My company has a safety department,” she said. “They wanted to develop a presentation based on my accident…I was absolutely ok with it.”

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety. Various types of distractions include:

  • Texting
  • Using a cell phone or smartphone
  • Eating and drinking
  • Talking to passengers
  • Grooming
  • Reading, including maps
  • Using a navigation system
  • Watching a video
  • Adjusting a radio, CD player, or MP3 player

Karen said these days she is vocal about distracted driving.

“I was distracted,” she said. “Now when I drive I put my purse in the back seat and I focus on driving.”