It’s happened to all of us: We’ve received a text message while cruising down the highway. The automatic response is to reach for the device and have a look. But such an act is more dangerous than you’d think. Each year, 23 percent of all crashes (that’s 1.3 million) involve mobile phone use, according to the National Safety Council.
Eric Hurlburt knows these dangers all too well. In 2011, the Marlboro man was involved in an accident on Route 9W caused by a person who was texting while driving. The harrowing result? Hurlburt lost his left leg. He could no longer do his job as a construction worker for the New York State Thruway Authority and had to postpone his wedding.
Yet Hurlburt refused to let the tragedy keep him down. “The way I look at it, I lived through something most people probably would have died from,” the 31-year-old says. “I’m very grateful for that, and I want to reach out and prevent it from happening to someone else.”
For the past year and a half, Hurlburt’s story has been the chief focus of Finkelstein and Partners’s “Commit to Quit” program, which demonstrates to high schoolers in the Hudson Valley and Saratoga areas the very real danger of texting and driving. The shock value of the presentation — a computer reenactment of Hurlburt’s collision and photos of his leg post-amputation — is meant to dissuade new and young drivers from checking their phones while behind the wheel. “I want them to see that anybody’s life could change in a matter of seconds,” he says. “That the one text can really affect someone else’s life.”
Overall, Hurlburt says both students and teachers have taken his message to heart. “A couple of students made a few comments when we were leaving last time. They were definitely appreciative. I feel like I made an impact,” he says.
And he’s also made strides in his personal life. Not only can he walk well on his prosthesis, but he’ll marry his high school sweetheart sometime next year.
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