TODAY

TODAY   |  April 23, 2014

Texting driver: ‘One second can change everything’

Chandler Gerber, who killed three children when he was texting while driving, and Jennifer Smith, founder of stopdistractions.org, warn TODAY viewers about the dangers of using your phone while behind the wheel.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> every day in the united states , some nine people are killed and more than a thousand people are injured in crashes that involve distracted drivers. in 2012 alone, more than 400,000 people were injured in distracted driving crashes.

>> and it's not just from texting, but also talking on cell phones , surfing the web, even playing games. meantime, a powerful ad campaign called "it can wait" has blanketed the airwaves featuring personal stories about the real dangers involved, provoking a lot of eemotion. but are they working? take a look.

>> the windshield glass broke, screeching, and i saw a body come down from off the top of the van and i just thought oh, my gosh, what have i done? what have i done? there's never a day that i wake up that i don't think about it.

>> chandler gerber is the person you just saw in that commercial. jennifer smith , the founder of stopdistractions.org. good morning to both of you. thanks for being here.

>> good morning. thanks for having us.

>> so chandler, because of the decision to text and drive, your life and the life of another family completely changed forever. three children lost. in indiana, it was illegal, but you still didn't think texting was a big deal , right?

>> you know, it's one of those things that everybody thinks it can't happen to them. everybody texts all day at work, at school, wherever they're at. so you get in the car and you're like, it's no big deal . i can text and drive. i still see it all the time. people driving down the interstate, 80 miles an hour, texting on their phone. or driving through town 20 miles an hour on their phone. it doesn't matter. everybody thinks it doesn't happen to them. and it does. it happened to me, it can happen to you.

>> and how long were your eyes basically off the road?

>> you know, just a second or two. a couple seconds.

>> that's all it takes.

>> a couple seconds can change your life . life's final, when something happens, you can't retdo it.

>> you do have to live with those choices. jennifer, it's not just texting. as i mentioned, playing video games on our phones. this behavior has just become epidemic almost.

>> yeah. it's e-mailing, it's social networking , it's taking selfies. and the other thing, it's not just teenagers. everyone likes to just blame them. but it's adults, it's grandparents even. it's everyone. but the good thing is these campaigns, they are working. i mean, with four million pledges, and they did like a statistical analysis early on, and looking at three states and they showed there was about a 5% to almost 8% drop in crashes around those campaign activities.

>> and there's some evidence that in a sense we're wired -- our brains are wired to look at our phones. it's almost like we can't help it.

>> yeah, i've heard it said, it's more. a habit now than a choice. we're addicted to our phones. we're getting a dope mean squirt in our brain when we hear that ping of connectivity, and we just want to see who it is. and we've got to be able to stop that ping.

>> you're not just an advocate now against distracted driving, but this is a personal cause for you. you lost your mom.

>> yes. september of 2008 , i lost my mom to a driver who was talking on a cell phone in oklahoma city . and you just never realize just how quickly everything can change.

>> your case went to a grand jury . they chose not to file criminal charges as a result of the crash. you didn't have the consequence of prison, but you live with the consequence of your actions every day and that's why you're participating in this.

>> yeah. you know, at&t approached me for the idea to be in the it can wait campaign. and, you know, talking with my wife and family, we just thought this is something we have to do. we have an opportunity here. you know, god's given us a platform where we can just reach out and show people the dangers of texting and driving and how it's important to pay attention to what you're doing.

>> this is your own family right here that we're seeing that we just saw a picture of?

>> that's my wife and my daughter shiloh and my little boy , 6 weeks old xander. so we're a young family growing, and you know, it's just something that i try to get out and show people , don't be that guy. don't be the guy that makes a mistake, that changes your life.

>> changes somebody else's life, too.

>> it changes somebody else's life. and people think it can't happen to them. but you know what, one choice, one second can change everything.

>> our thoughts and prayers go out to that family who lost their children. chandler gerbe and jennifer smith , thank you