OPINION: Will magnet stop distracted driving? Crash survivor hopes so

Credit: Courtesy of Molly Welch

Credit: Courtesy of Molly Welch

About a year ago, I told you about Molly Welch, an Alpharetta motivational speaker who’s made it her life’s work to warn the rest of us about the dangers of distracted driving.

Welch was approaching the exit to Auburn University off of I-85 when she remembered she’d recorded a couple of interviews for articles she plan to write for the school newspaper.

She was trying to retrieve the recorder when her car veered across the median and crashed head-on into an oncoming truck.

It was Feb. 9, 2008. Welch’s brain was so badly damaged it would take years for her to recover and return to Auburn to complete work on her journalism degree.

“Life changes in a second,” she told me at the time. “I was 21 when the accident happened, and I lost an entire decade to therapy. I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through what I’ve been through.”

To ensure that never happened, she shared her story with anyone who would listen. At local schools and churches, she warned about the dangers of distracted driving and the importance of persevering in the face of adversity. She founded a nonprofit called A Second Later. When the COVID-19 pandemic brought everything to a halt, invitations to speak were canceled.

Welch didn’t give up spreading her message. She simply pivoted.

Supporters helped her create a line of bumper stickers and magnets to help spread her message: “Keep Your Eyes on the Road.” Each one is 6 inches in diameter and contains a set of eyes with her message etched on them.

It’s up to you which eye color you prefer on the magnet, but they come in either brown, blue or green, and are available on her GoFundMe page.

Welch doesn’t care which you choose. She just hopes every Georgian displays one on their vehicle and that it will increase awareness about the importance of focusing on the road when we’re behind the wheel of a car.

This new campaign — launched in October — will help her take her message on the road. Literally.

And thanks to technology, you can still hear Welch’s story firsthand (northatlantakids.com/asecondlater).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 3,000 people were killed and an estimated 400,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2018.

If you think this has nothing to do with you, consider this: About 1 in 5 of the people who died in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2018 weren’t in vehicles. They were riding bikes or walking or happened to be standing in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Credit: Courtesy of Molly Welch

Credit: Courtesy of Molly Welch

A study analyzing data from the 2019 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance survey revealed the following:

o In 2019, 39% of high school students who drove in the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving on at least one of those days.

o Texting or emailing while driving was more common among older students than younger students (see figure below) and more common among white students (44%) than black (30%) or Hispanic students (35%).

o Texting or emailing while driving was as common among students whose grades were mostly A’s or B’s as among students with mostly C’s, D’s or F’s.

Of course, high schoolers aren’t the only distracted drivers on the road, but you get the picture. Should you need more reasons to get behind Welch’s efforts, just talk to her. She has a lot to say.

Find Gracie on Facebook (www.facebook.com/graciestaplesajc/) and Twitter (@GStaples_AJC) or email her at gstaples@ajc.com.


To reach Molly Welch for speaking engagements, email her at asecondlatermedia@gmail.com.