NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — Law enforcement agencies in Connecticut are cracking down on distracted driving through Oct. 31.
The Connecticut Department of Transportation launched a campaign to increase distracted driving enforcement, which New Fairfield resident Melissa Gorglione supports.
“It can happen in a minute,” Gorglione said. “I was normal one minute, in a coma for two weeks the next.”
Gorglione was just 15 when she said a distracted driver impacted the rest of her life.
“He got distracted and wasn’t paying attention, and he drove off with us on the back of the car, and I fell off and smashed my skull,” she said.
The physical injuries may have faded decades later, but Gorglione’s frontal lobe injuries remain challenging. She said she struggles with functions such as decision-making, organization and controlling her emotions, but she said counseling from the Brain Injury Alliance of Connecticut has helped her manage.
Victor Darr with the Brain Injury Alliance works directly with Gorglione. While he helps people with brain injuries caused by various reasons, from domestic violence to strokes, he said car crashes are the leading cause of brain injuries he sees in clients.
“For those people who do have some responsibility, it’s very difficult because they have guilt, and for those who don’t, it’s anger,” Darr said.
The Brain Injury Alliance also has a helpline for suffering victims and families, providing resources like how to talk about distracted driving with your teen. The Windsor organization focuses on prevention and educating drivers about why they shouldn’t drive distracted.
One of those reasons is cost. The first offense is a $200 ticket, the second offense is $375, and a third will cost you $625 with potential additional offenses.
Trooper First Class Garreth Ollivierre, who calls himself the “shark of Route 8,” has a message for distracted drivers.
“Don’t use your phone while driving because I’ll find you,” Ollivierre said. “Do you want a second to avoid a crash, or do you want the second of sending that message and then getting into an accident, and the next message you send, if you do get to send one, is from the hospital.”
Ollivierre said distracted driving has gotten worse in recent years. He said he typically writes four distracted driving tickets every shift.
“The other day, I stopped a lady that was actually watching YouTube while driving,” Ollivierre said.
According to the Department of Transportation, distracted driving is one of Connecticut’s leading causes of crashes. It caused over 5,000 crashes last year alone.
Gorglione said that picking up your phone, putting on makeup or eating while driving is not worth it for yourself and others.
“You never know, and you need to be an offensive driver and a defensive driver and have your eyes on the road at all times,” she said.
For more information on the Brain Injury Alliance, visit their website.