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San Diego public figure speaks out after hit by three distracted drivers in eight years

Distracted driving now #1 killer in US crashes
Posted at 4:46 PM, May 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-16 20:54:36-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - A San Diego public figure is speaking out after being hit three times by distracted drivers over 8 years.

Monica Zech is the Public Information Officer for the City of El Cajon. Her passion is public safety, specifically behind the wheel. She started as a Traffic Reporter in 1984 and had a 30-year career in broadcasting. She immediately found out, through reporting on first responders, how many crashes were preventable.

"When my father was hit about eight years after that, when I started lecturing, then the DUI issue became prevalent," Zech said her father was walking across the street in a marked cross-walk when a drunk driver hit him in 1992.

August 29th, 2011 a distracted driver ran a red light slamming into her. The crash was so violent surgeons told her she should've been paralyzed, "it was shocking to hear that. They said is this your MRI? Are you sure? I said I'm sure that's my MRI. They said well we're surprised you're sitting here, you should be paralyzed. We have patients with the same MRI and they're in a wheelchair."

She now has a titanium plate that straightens her spine and protects her in case she is in a future crash.

The next crash was in traffic on I-5, February of 2017. "I kept noticed his head bobbing down, looking down, I realized he was on his cell phone and wham! He hits me from behind," she said.

Tuesday she was hit from behind again. This time she says she stopped at a red light about to turn onto I-8 Eastbound from La Mesa Boulevard. She said the other driver's airbags deployed, she pulled over and was extremely apologetic, saying "I was looking at my cellphone, I do Door Dash, and I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry."

10News has reached out to DoorDash for a comment and have not heard back.

An excuse more common with a startling statistic from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver.

"It's surpassed DUI," Zech said.

The pain caused by these crashes, sometimes unbearable for Zech, "it's this irritating ache that's with me now, and headaches, and lower back pain, and it comes and goes. Tylenol is what keeps me going."

She harnesses the pain to drive her passion for educating drivers, from teens, to military members who returned home. "It's so important to get that message, so whether it's through the pocketbook, with how costly it could be, but the pain and injury and death that you can cause, it's ridiculous," she said.

In California it's also illegal to hold a phone while driving, even at a stop light. That law passed in 2017.

Zech hopes adults start setting a higher standard for the next generation, "I think we can, it starts individually, it starts small and grows from there." Hoping she can prevent someone else from facing the pain she lives with each day.