Walking among students gathered for lunch at North Augusta High School on Tuesday, Ashley Marriah shared her story of surviving texting behind the wheel.
The gash on the 20-year-old’s forehead and the gravel stuck in her arm are permanent reminders of her June 26 accident on Interstate 385 in South Carolina’s Upstate. She was on her way to pick up her mom from Greenville-Spartanburg International Airport and tried to send a text that she was running late.
She looked up in time to see a cement wall before she slammed into it and spent three days in the hospital.
Marriah helped kick off Subway and South Carolina Highway Patrol’s “W8 2 TXT” campaign at North Augusta High and other schools across the state.
“You all have different things you want to be,” she said to the students, as she walked around and asked a few what they want to be when they grow up. “You still have a lot of life to live, and I am speaking to you because I almost lost my life.”
Lying in the hospital bed with gravel and glass in her hands, the musician who posts her work to YouTube said all she could think about was not being able to live out her dreams.
“Do you know what that does to you when you are sitting in a hospital bed and you are thinking about your dreams, you are thinking about your life, and all you can see is everything falling apart?” she said. “All your dreams are gone, everything, all for one single text.”
Marriah said she is one of the lucky ones. She survived.
In South Carolina, 820 people died in collisions in 2011, said Capt. Trey Stephens of the highway patrol. Of those, 165 were young drivers.
“Sending a text takes your eyes off the road for about 5 seconds,” he said. “At 55 mph, taking your eyes off the road for 5 seconds is like driving the length of a football field blind.”
Stephens asked students to care enough about themselves, their future and others on the road to wait to text.
The idea for the campaign started with Ali Saifi, the president and CEO of Subway Development Corp. of South Carolina Inc., after attending the funeral of the daughter of a Subway owner in Columbia. She died after texting behind the wheel.
“If I can save one life by giving back, I am happy,” he said. “There is not a text that cannot wait till you have stopped driving.”
To encourage students not to text and drive, the “W8 2 TXT” campaign is asking students to pledge not to text and drive at w82txtpledge.com. The school that has the highest percentage of student pledges from each market area will win a free lunch from Subway.
The W8 2 TXT Pledge High School Competition ends April 30.