Mother warns local teens about distracted driving

Martha Tessman lost son in crash

LA MESA, Calif. - A mother who lost her son in a crash caused by a distracted driver shared her message with local teens on Tuesday.

Martha Tessman is on a mission.

"One voice in that car would've saved my son's life," she said. "If a car trip gets to be unsafe, be that one voice… whether you're the driver or passenger, just be the one voice that says this isn't fun, this isn't funny. Make that pact to protect each other's life."

With California Highway Patrol officers by her side, she hung up her son's letterman's jacket and spoke to teenagers at Grossmont High School about the dangers of distracted driving. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month.

Her son Donovan was a football star who loved the outdoors. He and some friends dared his girlfriend to drive faster on a small country road in the Central Valley. She lost control and hit a tree. Donovan died instantly.

According to the National Highway Safety Administration, 3,331 people were killed in U.S. crashes involving a distracted driver in 2011 compared to about 3,200 in 2010. The numbers for people injured in 2011 was 387,000 compared to 416,000 in 2010.

About 22 percent of all crashes in California last year were caused by distracted drivers. Those distractions came from more than just talking and texting on the phone.

"Whether it be eating, drinking, talking or texting, driving goes to the back burner of your brain because your primary mental obligation is no longer to your driving," said CHP officer Brian Pennings.

He told 10News it has been scientifically proven that distracted drivers only perceive half of what is in front of them.

"Fifty percent of what goes by you have no clue of what is even there, and that's a very dangerous situation," said Pennings.

Tessman said, "Nothing was gained, and for Donovan and for my family, everything was lost."

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