Jacy Good has found her message and her audience.
“When you drive while on the phone, you are impaired,” she said. “I use that word purposely. When you drive drunk that is driving while impaired. When you drive while on the phone, you are also driving while impaired.”
The 26-year old Pennsylvania native spoke to CCS students on Tuesday about the dangers of distracted driving, part of a three-school swing set up by the Otsego County Sheriff’s Office.
“This is my third school of the day and my 23rd state this year,” Good said. “This is what I do. This is what I love to do. It is exhausting and it is emotional, but it is also empowering.”
On May 18, 2008, Good and her parents, Jay and Jean Good, were driving home from her graduation from Muhlenberg College in Allentown, Pa. An 18-year-old driver who was talking on his cellphone ran a red light, causing a three-vehicle accident. A truck driver coming through the intersection tried to avoid the 18-year-old’s car, but ended up striking the Good’s car. The truck driver and the 18-year old suffered minor injuries.
Both of Good’s parents were killed and she suffered brain damage. She was in a coma for two weeks, and had a lengthy rehabilitation to learn how to walk and talk again. She has no use of her left arm and walks with the help of a brace on her left ankle.
She said she doesn’t remember the accident, but has been told that an EMT lived nearby — and was home on his day off — and his proximity to the accident site saved her life.
Good said she has never spoken to the 18-year-old, who she said he has not taken responsibility for the accident.
“He was one of you,” she told the CCS middle and high school students. “He was 18 years old. He was a good kid. He didn’t know that he was doing something stupid, something that I personally think is wrong.
“We all have coping mechanisms,” she continued. “Someday he will accept responsibility for what he did and for what pain he has caused in this world.”
Good said that speaking out against distracted driving has become her mission. She started by speaking in Harrisburg, Pa., in favor of a potential Pennsylvania law against cellphone use while driving.
“I thought, if I could tell this story, maybe it would help change the law,” she said. “Or maybe it would cause someone else to not drive while talking on the phone. Maybe it would give some meaning to my mom and dad dying.”
The law has still not passed in Pennsylvania, but her testimony has gained her attention and given her cause publicity.
In 2010, Good went on the “Oprah Winfrey Show.” Last year, she appeared on “Say Yes to the Dress” to select a dress for her October 2013 wedding, an admission that drew gasps from many Cooperstown students.
“I have a daughter getting married, so I have seen that episode,” CCS Principal Michael Cring said, “and I can tell you, it is a great episode.”
Good also spoke at Oneonta and Unatego High Schools on Tuesday, as part of a grant-funded program set up by the Governor’s Traffic Safety Committee. Otsego County Sheriff Richard Devlin, Jr. said he hopes to have Good back in the spring to speak to several more schools, if the funding becomes available.
“It is definitely an important issue,” he said, “and this is the group that you have to give the message to.”